Zeman Willing to do Anything to be Re-elected, But Will it Be Enough?

Prague, (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman has recently been doing as much as possible to defend his post in the weekend runoff and he is the favourite of the election, but his rival Jiri Drahos seems to have a chance to win as well, Petr Honzejk writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) today.


He says Zeman was in a very difficult situation after the first round held two weeks ago: Zeman clearly won with 38 percent of the vote, but Drahos and four other candidates who supported him against Zeman gained over 50 percent in total.


After the first round, Zeman managed to use the political game related to the formation of the next government to his benefit and he was more successful in the first TV debate held on Tuesday. According to the odds for the runoff’s winner offered by betting agencies, Zeman is considered the favourite once again, Honzejk writes.


Zeman showed in the last few days that he is ready to do anything to be re-elected. He previously said he would not wage a campaign, but he had an enormous campaign; he previously said he would not participate in any television debate, and then he demanded that four debates be held; he said he wanted Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) to prove that his future government would have a majority support in the Chamber of Deputies and now he does not require it, in exchange for ANO’s official support for his re-election, Honzejk writes.


However, the election result is far from clear since Zeman’s result in the first round was worse than expected, he writes.


Honzejk says two factors will decide on the election result: “First, whether Milos Zeman succeeds in mobilising his voters who did not take part in the first round; and second, whether he eventually manages to discourage a significant part of the voters of the failed candidates Pavel Fischer, Michal Horacek, Marek Hilser and Mirek Topolanek who plan to cast their votes for Drahos.”


More than 200,000 voters of the anti-immigrant Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) of rightist populist Tomio Okamura, who has been supporting Zeman, did not take part in the first round. These people would need to have a really strong motivation to cast their votes in the second round in which the turnout is traditionally lower, Honzejk writes, adding that they would have to get scared to do so.


On Tuesday, the main story of the Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wide circulation daily said a former Prague imam was accused of support to terrorism, and such a story might serve this purpose, yet the impulse might not be strong enough, Honzejk writes.


The MfD is owned by a trust fund of Babis.


Zeman has been trying to mobilise those who did not take part in the first round by billboards saying “Stop Immigrants, Stop Drahos” and by untruly claiming in the first TV duel that Drahos is the only Czech politician who wants to welcome immigrants in the country, Honzejk writes.


But it is a question whether Zeman will be successful in his effort as many people voted for the SPD in the autumn general election because Okamura strongly criticised distraint proceedings rather than because of his anti-Islam statements, Honzejk says.


Zeman has never strongly defended those who have fallen into the debt trap, he adds.


Honzejk writes that Zeman may be more successful in discouraging voters from the anti-Zeman camp from taking part in the runoff due to Drahos’s inexperience. Drahos does not seem to be sufficiently prepared for heated duels with Zeman that are broadcast live, he says.


In reaction to Drahos’s unconvincing performance in the first TV duel, some people wrote on social networks that they were considering whether to take part in the second round after all, Honzejk writes.


In the first televised duel, the Prima TV moderator was incapable and the atmosphere was unfair and helped Zeman prevail, but Drahos’s performance simply was not good, he writes.


“Unless Drahos’s team works hard and prepares Drahos well for the final duel that the public Czech Television broadcasts live tonight, Zeman may open a bottle in advance,” Honzejk writes.


However, Drahos may win if voters consider the election a referendum on Zeman and all that Zeman represents rather than an effort to find an ideal head of state, Honzejk writes.