Czech election: Milos Zeman leads in first round

Czech election: Milos Zeman leads in first round

Milos Zeman once said he wanted "death for all abstainers and vegetarians", he has declared war-literally-to journalists and on environmental groups he said he would treat them "in the medieval way: he would burn them, urinate on them and I would throw salt at them". Like Slovakia and Hungary, the Czechs have clashed with the European Commission over their refusal to accept migrants under quotas set by a vote by EU leaders.

The act went some way to reassuring at least some of the urban, liberal, pro-European Czechs - most of whom did not vote for him - that the country's geopolitical position would, perhaps, be secure in his hands after all. He has appointed billionaire Andrej Babis, with whom he shares dislike for the EU's refugee policies, as prime minister, even though the tycoon's single-party government doesn't have a majority in parliament.

"I want to bring a completely different style of presidency, bring people together, not label them, a clear embedding of the Czech Republic in Europe, with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union as allies, not China", Drahos, 68, said in an interview at www.dvtv.cz news website earlier in January.

These are the last two points, says the BBC correspondent, those that most divide the nation.

To his supporters he is a plain-speaking, politically incorrect master of the witty one-liner; a chain-smoking, heavy-drinking politician of the old school; a president who speaks to the hopes and fears of the little man.

He is also stridently anti-Muslim, having once called the 2015 migrant crisis "an organized invasion" of Europe and insisted Muslims were "impossible to integrate".

"Although I can think of certain women for whom that would be an improvement", he added.

In fact he has made the "threat" from the Islamic world - which he calls an "anti-civilisation" - a central theme of his presidency. Two years later, he was the keynote speaker at a conference of the anti-immigrant SPD party.

This has caused widespread surprise since Zeman, who was a communist, describes himself as a leftist.

"It could indicate the end of the first democratic republic and the onset of the second republic". "But anyway he is targeting different voters to Zeman", Mlejnek said.

"I think President Zeman does not represent the country as he should", he told the BBC, "sometimes he behaves as if he were not our president, I'm ashamed".

The first round of voting passed uneventfully apart from a semi-naked protester who tried to disrupt Mr Zeman casting his vote in Prague on Friday. He has difficulties walking connected with diabetes and has at times looked frail. Now Babis said he did not have enough information at the time when he was entering politics and the ANO movement criticised traditional political parties, including the power-sharing pact of the right-wing ODS of Klaus and the Social Democrats (CSSD) of Zeman.

It was a clear snub to the country's urban elite.

If opinion polls are correct, voters are willing to re-elect him. If that happens, there will be rejoicing in village pubs, while the urbanites will sink into a deep depression.

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