Prague, (CTK) – The Czech direct presidential election, whose first round will be held on January 12-13 with the final results being known on Saturday evening, will decide whether incumbent President Milos Zeman will keep his post or whether any of his rivals will replace him.
If none of the candidates wins a majority of the vote in the first round, the two most successful ones will meet in the runoff.
Before the final results, the Czech Statistical Office (CSU) will gradually release partial results of the election at the www.volbyihned.cz website and it will also write important information on Twitter. The CSU said it may happen that some electoral commissions would hand over their records of the calculated votes later than others, especially in mountain areas.
Same as in the previous election five years ago, nine candidates are running for the post. Unlike in 2013, none of the present members of the government or parliament is seeking the post of the head of state, none of them is a woman, and none of them is promoted by a mainstream political party.
The president is not the key figure in the Czech parliamentary system, yet the presidential powers include appointing the government, central bank heads and judges as well as granting pardons, vetoing bills and representing the country at top-level international meetings.
In the previous election, former caretaker cabinet head Jan Fischer and former left-wing prime minister Zeman were considered the favourites, but Fischer did not advance to the runoff. Zeman defeated then foreign minister and TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg in the second round.
In 2013, the Civic Democrats (ODS) supported their Senate deputy chairman Premysl Sobotka, the Social Democrats (CSSD) their deputy head Jiri Dienstbier, and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) their MEP Zuzana Roithova.
The only candidate without a career in politics was composer and artist Vladimir Franz, with a distinctive tattoo all over his body including his face and bald head.
In the present election, Zeman is the most popular candidate and he seems to be the only one with a chance of winning already in the first round. However, it appears most probable that Zeman and Academy of Sciences former head Jiri Drahos will meet in the runoff.
In reaction to speculations about the bad health condition of Zeman, 73, his doctors declared this week that he is in a good physical and mental condition.
The other presidential candidates are lyricist and entrepreneur Michal Horacek, former right-wing prime minister Mirek Topolanek, former diplomat Pavel Fischer, physician and university teacher Marek Hilser, Skoda car maker’s former board head Vratislav Kulhanek, arms industry official Jiri Hynek and musician and music producer Petr Hannig.
Zeman, Drahos and Horacek gained the signatures of tens of thousands of people in support of their candidacies, while the other candidates were nominated by groups of lawmakers, which was the other option.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who heads the ANO movement, and Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) leader Tomio Okamura expressed support for Zeman this week, while other parties mostly supported Drahos, also in fear of what they call the Babis-Zeman power pact.
The polling stations open on Friday afternoon (14:00 to 22:00) and then again on Saturday morning (08:00 to 14:00). At Czech diplomatic missions in America, the election will start already this afternoon because of the time shift. In Brazil it begins at 17:00 CEST, on the U.S. East Coast at 20:00 CEST.