World Bulletin / News Desk
Czech voters will choose between two very different candidates in pro-Russian incumbent Milos Zeman and pro-European academic Jiri Drahos during a presidential run-off on Friday and Saturday that is expected to go down to the wire.
"This is a showdown between two completely different candidates representing two parts of a rather split society," Tomas Lebeda, a political analyst at Palacky University in the eastern Czech city of Olomouc, told AFP.
Zeman, an ex-communist known for his pro-Russian and pro-Chinese stance, topped a field of nine candidates in the first round on January 12-13 with 38.56 percent of the vote, ahead of Drahos with 26.60 percent.
Zeman's attitude to the European Union echoes other populist-minded eastern EU leaders -- especially in Hungary and Poland -- at odds with Brussels over mandatory refugee quotas and various rules which they see as attempts to limit national sovereignty.
The 73-year-old makes no secret of his staunchly anti-Muslim views, and once called the 2015 migrant crisis "an organised invasion" of Europe, claiming Muslims were "impossible to integrate".
Even though the country of 10.6 million people has only received 12 migrants under the EU quota system, migration has become a key issue in political campaigning.
"If you want to stop them (migrants), you have to stop them at the beginning, otherwise you can never stop them," Zeman said in a TV debate on Monday.
Since the first round, billboards all across the Czech Republic sought to appeal to voters with anti-migrant messages: "Stop immigrants and Drahos. This is our country. Vote Zeman!"
"Milos Zeman represents low-income groups with lower education, who more often live outside cities and typically in regions with lower economic performance, and of course he has adjusted his campaign to that," said Lebeda.
"He is a candidate with a long-term, systematic foreign-policy focus on Russia and China, and a candidate who is not really accepted by western politicians."Last Mod: 24 Ocak 2018, 12:29