Boskovice, South Moravia/Prague, Dec 1 (CTK) – Czech presidential candidate Jiri Drahos made “a desperate attempt to attract attention by spreading conspiracy theories,” President Milos Zeman said in reaction to Drahos’s statement that foreign secret services may be influencing elections in the country.
Unless Drahos had his own secret service, he is spreading conspiracy theories, Zeman told a press conference at the end of his tour of the South Moravia Region.
He said the counter-intelligence BIS disclaimed Drahos’s statement.
BIS had no such information but it admitted there is always a risk of disinformation campaigns being waged, its director Michal Koudelka said.
Zeman said the claim that the general election or the direct presidential election can be influenced by some imaginary foreign services is an offence of Czech citizens.
The general election was held in October and the presidential election is scheduled for January.
Zeman said Drahos acted like the U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who lost in the election to current U.S. President Donald Trump last year.
Drahos, former Science Academy head, said today he fears that the election results have been influenced by foreign secret services.
He said the Russian influence on the elections in the United States, France and Germany was proved. He said he expects similar influences on the Czech direct presidential election.
Drahos is considered the most serious rival to Zeman who is defending his post.
Zeman is known for having good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. He repeatedly praised China and challenged the sanctions that the West imposed on Russia over the annexation of Crimea.
In summer, Drahos faced online news describing him as an aide of the communist secret police (StB) during the previous regime. In reaction to this, he released his negative screening certificate that rules out such cooperation on his part.
Radek Schovanek, a researcher from the Centre for the documenting of totalitarian regimes, said the disinformation was “an expedient effort to defame Drahos’s name and influence the result of the presidential election.”
Schovanek said people linked to the StB tried to defame Zeman’s rival Karel Schwarzenberg in the previous presidential election and now this situation is repeated.
Outgoing Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the government takes seriously the risk of a possible rigging of elections in the country by disinformation spread from abroad.
Presidential candidates Michal Horacek and Mirek Topolanek told CTK that they believe the deliberate influencing of Czech elections through fake news posed a risk.
“Such fear is justified. It is indisputable that we face a hybrid conflict. We have come across mostly disinformation operations, be it articles on conspiracy websites or chain e-mails,” Horacek said.
Topolanek said presidential candidates must be prepared to face the risk of deliberately spread lies and disinformation. He said Russia definitely had an influence in the country.
Topolanek, former prime minister, said the government frequently received reports about the activation of sleeper agents and groups of supporters of the former communist regime when the construction of a U.S. radar base near Prague was considered.
Presidential bidder Vratislav Kulhanek, former Skoda Auto car maker’s chief, said he believes voters would not let anybody impose different opinions on them.
Candidate Pavel Fischer said he was concerned about the Chinese interest in buying Czech media.
Fischer said the Chinese CEFC investment group, whose representatives are Zeman’s aides and which is investigated over huge corruption in the USA, showed interest in buying the commercial television Nova, the most popular TV station in the Czech Republic.