Czech Republic: Anti-immigration president seeks re-election


A topless woman disrupted Czech president Miloš Zeman as he voted on Friday afternoon on the outskirts of Prague.

A win by any of Zeman's main rivals could mean that voices from the Czech leadership may shift closer to the European Union mainstream, in contrast to ex-communist neighbours such as Poland and Hungary, whose governments have clashed with Brussels.

Zeman was quickly escorted out and returned to cast his vote shortly afterwards.

People flock to the Vltava river in downtown Prague
Czech Republic: Anti-immigration president seeks re-election

Mr Zeman's victory is profoundly important to the recently installed prime minister, Andrej Babis, who heads up a minority government heavily dependent on the current president's support for its survival.

But Prague wine bar owner Eva Simova, 53, told AFP that he was voting for Drahos: "He seems like an honest guy and what's more, I'm sick and exhausted of Zeman". Since then, he's been one of most prominent voices in Europe to call for abolition of sanctions against Russian Federation over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

When Zeman prepared to present his ID card to the election commission, the woman took off her shirt and started running and yelling towards him. After Zeman entered a polling station in Prague, he was approached by a female Femen activist stripped to the waist who shouted "Zeman, Putin's slut!"

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If none of the candidates could win an absolute majority of the vote, the second round will be held two weeks later, on January 26-27.

Zeman should do well in the first round due to fragmentation among opposition candidates sharing the same generally pro-EU platform. But the 73-year-old could face a tough challenger in a run-off two weeks from now, in the shape of academic Jiri Drahos, former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

"It is a clash between. the post-communist part of society represented by Zeman and the other part, say, modern, pro-Western, which simply doesn't want this president any more", he told AFP. Now Babis said he did not have enough information at the time when he was entering politics and the ANO movement criticised traditional political parties, including the power-sharing pact of the right-wing ODS of Klaus and the Social Democrats (CSSD) of Zeman.

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Soon after that initial results will indicate which two candidates are likely to contest the expected run-off vote. "The second round will decide and different rules will apply there", CTK news agency quoted him as saying.

Zeman and Babis are among the most popular politicians in the country of 10.6 million that is largely eurosceptic and rejects accepting migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

Zeman has been the most outspoken on migration, linking Muslim immigration to security threats, and he reiterated his views in a television appearance on Thursday.

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"What I would be afraid of is infiltration by jihadists, and thus a higher number of terrorist attacks in European countries or cities", he said on TV Barrandov.