Czech Presidential Election Underway: Anti-Mass Migration Zeman is Favourite

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Initial results indicating which two candidates are likely to contest the expected run-off are expected later Saturday.

Czechs wrapped up voting on Saturday in the first round of a presidential election in which eight candidates are seeking to oust Milos Zeman, whose inclination toward far-right groups and warm relations with Russian Federation and China have split public opinion.

Czech President Milos Zeman says he is ready to debate challenger Jiri Drahos before the second round of the country's presidential election in two weeks.

He is also stridently anti-Muslim, having once called the 2015 migrant crisis "an organised invasion" of Europe and insisted Muslims were "impossible to integrate". In the 1989 Velvet Revolution, Horacek helped organize talks between the communist regime and anti-communist dissidents led by playwright Vaclav Havel.

Most recently, he made derogatory comments about the #MeToo movement.

"The polarisation of society has deepened in the past months", Saradin said.

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"It could indicate the end of the first democratic republic and the onset of the second republic". A professor of chemistry, he headed the academy from 2009 until previous year.

"What I would be afraid of is infiltration by jihadists, and thus a higher number of terrorist attacks in European countries or cities", he said on Thursday night in his weekly interview show, Week with the President, on TV Barrandov. That has not been Zeman's way.

Otherwise, the president has little executive power and the country is run by the government chosen and led by the prime minister, now populist billionaire Andrej Babis, a Zeman ally who faces fraud charges.

On Wednesday, Zeman pledged to stand by the caretaker prime minister even though it is unlikely he will be able to win a vote of confidence from parliament.

Mr Zeman's victory is profoundly important to the recently installed prime minister, Andrej Babis, who heads up a minority government heavily dependent on the current president's support for its survival.

A struggle for Czech identity?

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A loss for Zeman to any of his main challengers could mean Czech public opinion may shift closer to the European Union mainstream, in contrast to ex-communist neighbors such as Poland and Hungary whose governments have clashed with Brussels.

"Ever since the beginning of our statehood a thousand years ago, the Czechs have belonged to the European West".

Around 8.4 million Czechs were eligible to cast ballots. In addition to Zeman - a heavy smoker and proud drinker - is Czech singer Petr Hannig and former prime minister Mirek Topolanek, who in 2009 was famously photographed naked with topless women at one of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's villas. In office, he's become known for strong anti-migrant rhetoric that united him with the populist right, and he has divided the nation with his pro-Russian stance and support for closer ties with China.

Drahos, 68, could not be more different.

Opinion polls show Zeman will probably garner the most votes but too few to avoid a January 26-27 runoff with one of his eight challengers.

He leads eight other candidates, with around 41.3 percent of the votes, according to the results from half of the districts.

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