London, (CTK) – A possible defeat of President Milos Zeman in the forthcoming presidential election “could profoundly affect Czech politics, particularly the future of the recently installed prime minister, Andrej Babis, who heads a minority government heavily dependent on the current president’s support for its survival,” the British daily The Guardian writes today.
The Guardian says Zeman is an eastward-looking politician and the Czech presidential election is widely seen as “a referendum on his controversial brand of anti-immigrant populism and the country’s place in the western alliance.”
The paper writes that Zeman has been accused of promoting a climate of vulgarity, incompetence and corruption.
Zeman’s main challenger, Czech Academy of Sciences former head Jiri Drahos, told The Guardian that he would not allow Babis, the second richest man in the country, to continue as prime minister because he is facing criminal fraud charges.
According to The Guardian, Drahos promised to restore the moral authority associated with the late president Vaclav Havel, which “had been squandered by Zeman’s penchant for incendiary statements and the rise of populist parties in parliament.”
Drahos “vowed to reverse the president’s friendly approach to Russia and instead reaffirm the Czech Republic’s commitment to the EU and NATO,” The Guardian writes.
Drahos said Zeman’s perceived closeness to the Kremlin threatened Czech democracy and was motivated on Russia’s side by a desire to destabilise the EU, the paper writes. “President Zeman’s current stance toward Moscow is unacceptable. This is one of the main reasons that he needs to be replaced. I have already warned that we can easily be manipulated by a Russian disinformation campaign and influence. We have seen this trend during the U.S. presidential election and in Germany, France and Catalonia. The Russians do not want a strong, united and stable Europe,” The Guardian quotes Drahos as saying.
Zeman has caused consternation with his vocal opposition to the sanctions that western countries imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, it writes.
The paper writes that one of Zeman’s closest aides, Martin Nejedly, is chief executive of the Czech subsidiary of the Russian energy firm Lukoil, “fuelling unproven suspicions of hidden financial interests in the president’s relations with Moscow.”
“Zeman has retained the approval of a majority of Czech voters since his election in 2013 thanks to his hardline rhetoric against immigration and Islam,” The Guardian writes.
Nevertheless, pollsters say Zeman, 73, is electorally vulnerable, citing a combination of widespread opposition to his anti-western attitudes and concerns over his advanced age and supposed ill-health, the paper says.