Czech President Milos Zeman


Zeman Takes Gloves Off As Runoff Election Nears

Prague, (CTK) – Aggressiveness has appeared in the campaign of Milos Zeman, who seeks re-election as Czech president and who faces former Science Academy head Jiri Drahos in the January 26-27 runoff, experts told CTK today, reacting to a new advertisement lashing at Drahos and appearing in two newspapers today.


Drahos’s campaign has shown no strong emotions so far. His planned two television debates with Zeman might bring about a change, since Drahos needs at least to keep pace with Zeman as a capable speaker, the experts said.


The advertisement including the slogan “Stop Migrants and Drahos. This Country Belongs to Us!” and a call on people to vote for Zeman appeared in the Denik and Pravo newspapers, ordered by the Euro-Agency company.


Martin Joachymstal, an expert in political marketing, told CTK that the advertisement, also signed by the Friends of Milos Zeman Association, is “very sharp and aggressive.”


“With the second [election] round ahead, confrontational and aggressive Milos Zeman has entered the scene,” Joachymstal said.


Zeman is very well aware that everything is at stake, he added.


Karel Kominek, head of the Institute of Political Marketing (IPM), said the advertisement’s goal is to mobilise the supporters of Zeman and those who are considering whether to vote for Zeman or to shun the runoff vote.


Zeman’s strongest weapon is his style close to ordinary people’s. His voters often say he “is ours,” Kominek said.


“What is rather embarrassing is the use of a five-year-old photo [of Zeman in the advertisement], by which his office further fuels the questions about the health condition of the president,” Kominek said.


Drahos and Zeman, who emerged the most successful of all nine candidates from the first round of the election on January 12-13, will face each other in TV debates for the first time next week, because Zeman previously shunned such debates.


Joachymstal said he expects the TV duels to force Drahos to make clear statements and take more unambiguous positions, which he tried to avoid doing before the first round.


He and Kominek said the result of the runoff may be influenced by the two rivals’ capability of facing an expedient spreading of fake news.


“The volume of disinformation and its graveness can be expected to rise with the election drawing nearer,” Kominek said.


Unfounded information has been spread about both candidates. In the case of Zeman, it usually concerns his health.


In the case of Drahos, a variety of speculations has emerged, also about his approach to migration, at which the new advertisement alludes.


“The candidates must thoroughly monitor these activities and fight against the potentially dangerous ones. Otherwise they could intensify and have a real harmful influence [on the candidates’ prospects],” Joachymstal said.


Kominek said the most marked difference between Zeman and Drahos is in their public appearances.


“A dignified conduct and a certain nobleness is typical of the Jiri Drahos brand and the biggest difference compared with Milos Zeman,” Kominek said.


In the final phase of the presidential race, Drahos may be harmed by his own unimpressiveness, while Zeman may deter voters by ill-considered lash-outs at Drahos.


“If Zeman’s team overdoes the attacks, it may turn undecided voters’ attention to Drahos, whom they would view as a victim,” Kominek said.


Joachymstal said such attacks might backfire on Zeman and strip him of an important portion of voter support.