Eastward-looking Zeman is favourite as Czechs vote for president

Eastward-looking Zeman is favourite as Czechs vote for president

Zeman was elected to the largely ceremonial post in 2013 during the country's first direct presidential vote, a victory that returned the former left-leaning prime minister to power.

As Rob Cameron, a BBC correspondent in Prague, points out, these new elections will not only be a referendum on Zeman, but also on the direction the Czech Republic will follow.

While presidents in the Czech Republic have little authority and limited political influence beyond the ability to make constitutional appointments, they can have a significant sway on public opinion.

Unless the victor takes more than 50 percent in the first round, the two highest-scoring candidates will go head-to-head in a run-off planned for January 26-27. They also appoint central bankers and judges and are pivotal in forming governments, a process the Czech Republic - a member of both the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - is now going through.

He also has warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has called for the removal of European Union sanctions imposed over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014.

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Femen, an global feminist group that originated in Ukraine, said on its website that the woman was Ukrainian citizen Angelina Diash. CSU will release the results on its website, and the final results are to be available on Saturday evening.

He is a supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump and similarly cultivates his appeal by sniping at the news media and what he calls intellectual elites.

"But anyway he is targeting different voters to Zeman", Mlejnek said.

Zeman should do well in the first round due to fragmentation among opposition candidates sharing the same generally pro-EU platform.

Many voters remainied undecided until the last minute, with Prague archivist Marcela Riegerova saying she "ended up tossing a coin to decide between two candidates, and Drahos came out the victor".

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Babis said Thursday he'd vote for Zeman in the election.

Along with Zeman, former Science Academy chairman Jiri Drahos, businessman and lyricist Michal Horacek, former Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman and ex-PM Mirek Topolanek, medical doctor and university teacher Marek Hilser, former ambassador to France Pavel Fischer, Skoda Auto former board chairman Vladimir Kulhanek, Defence and Security Industry Association President Jiri Hynek and musician and producer Petr Hannig are running for president.

One of Milos Zeman's first acts as president was highly symbolic.

Zeman has the backing of embattled billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who said the incumbent "fights for our national interests" but called on him to "unite, not divide" Czechs.

For most of the candidates vying to replace him in the upcoming presidential election, restating the Czech Republic's Western orientation is high on the agenda.

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Among the leading candidates, Zeman has been the most outspoken on migration, linking Muslim immigration to security threats.

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