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Zeman wins Czech presidential election run-off - preliminary outcomes

Zeman wins Czech presidential election run-off - preliminary outcomes

Near-complete results from the Czech Statistics Office showed Mr Zeman receiving 51.8% of the votes cast in the two-day second round election.

The incumbent president has served in the position since March 2013, running as a candidate from the Party of Civic Rights, which he founded in 2009. "He is the people's image of populism and this election is probably the defeat of the western, urban educated part of Czech society", said Lubomir Kopecek, a professor of political sciences at Masaryk University in Czech city of Brno.

Drahos, who headed the Academy of Sciences from 2009 until a year ago, is a political newcomer and is not affiliated with a political party. It also extends an alliance with billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis, with whom he shares opposition to further European integration and acceptance of refugees from Africa and the Middle East in a country that has an nearly non-existent Muslim minority. He also has proposed a referendum on the Czech Republic's membership in the European Union like the one held in Britain. Zeman immediately asked Babis to try again. "It's important for us, for jobs; our country is at the heart of Europe - we can't go in just one direction", he said in Prague.

The Czech president plays a role in forming the government, names members of the constitutional court and is has input on foreign policy.

Since then, he has divided the nation with his pro-Russia stance, support for closer ties with China, and strong anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

The president, elected for five years, is not involved in day-to-day politics, but he appoints central bankers and judges and picks who can form a government.

The two men also sparred over policy on Russian Federation. His views on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as Europe's migrant crisis, diverge sharply from the European mainstream.

Zeman has repeatedly called on the European Union to lift its sanctions on Russian Federation over its 2014 takeover of Crimea from Ukraine.

In a final television debate on Thursday, Drahos said Zeman had nothing left to give the country.

Zeman has exploited widespread fear of migration among Czechs and has been trying to present Drahos as someone who would welcome migrants, charges his opponent denies.

A group of Zeman's supporters commissioned billboards and newspaper ads that called on citizens to "Stop Migrants and Drahos", adding "This is our land!"

"It is clear that Jiri Drahoš is unequivocally pro-EU and an euro-Atlantic candidate".

Although the powers of the Czech president are limited Mr Zeman has drawn attention to himself and his country by being a vocal Eurosceptic with strong pro-Russia views.

His failed attempt to replace Havel as president in 2003 - in a vote won by Klaus - led him to reconsider his priorities and retreat to a country house far from Prague "to embrace trees", as he once said.



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