Pro-Russian president Milos Zeman leads in Czech vote: Partial results

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis addresses lawmakers during a Parliament session in Prague Czech Republic Wednesday Jan. 10 2018. Czech Republic's Parliament gathered for a confidence vote for a newly appointed government led by Babis. Pho

The Czech presidential election will go to a run-off after incumbent Milos Zeman led the first round but did not secure enough votes to win outright.

With over 99 percent of ballots counted, Zeman led the pack of nine candidates with 38.65 percent of the votes, the Czech Statistical Office said on Saturday.

A sizeable chunk of the electorate are now favouring pro-western candidates, including 68-year-old academic Drahos, who will be a formidable opponent in the second round vote in two weeks, almost complete results showed. Asked how before the January 26-27 vote he meant to attract the votes that neither went to him nor Zeman in the first round but to Fischer, Hilser or Horacek, he said: "I do not see a major problem there".

As he voted in Prague on Friday, Zeman was targeted by a bare-breasted anti-Kremlin protester who called him "Putin's slut", referring to Russia's president. Drahos has said that if elected president he will not tolerate having the populist agro-chemicals tycoon Babis continue as PM while he remains a subject of an investigation into an allegedly fraudulent European Union subsidy application made for the Stork's Nest conference and rural recreation centre.

A right-wing, pro-Russia candidate, Zeman has come under fire by critics for his xenophobic views, while his anti-Islamic rhetoric is seen by many as stoking a deep divide in the Czech Republic.

A January survey commissioned by Czech Television showed Zeman losing a run-off to Drahos, who beat him with 48.5 percent to 44 percent.

After voting in Prague yesterday, Drahos said that the future president "should work in the interest of the pro-Western orientation of the Czech Republic" in a clear dig at Zeman.

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Tapped by Zeman for prime minister in December, Babis was forced to form a minority government which appears set to lose a parliamentary confidence vote on Jan 16. The president also selects Constitutional Court judges with the approval of Parliament's upper house.

Zemen was greeted at the polling station by a topless protester from worldwide feminist group Femen, shouting "Putin's slut".

Drahos is a political newcomer who is not affiliated with a political party and has said he wants the values of "truth, reason and decency" to win.

After the first round, Drahos urged all those "who want a change" to cast ballots in the runoff.

Zeman, 73, is likely to face Drahos, 68, in the runoff as the two men are far ahead of the rest of the field.

The French AFP news agency quoted analyst Jiri Pehe as saying that "Zeman will have a huge problem in the second round".

The former president of the Academy of Sciences, Jiri Drahos, and popular song writer Michal Horacek are considered his major challengers among the eight other candidates.

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