Zeman Forced Into Runoff For Czech Presidency

Presidential candidate and Czech President Milos Zeman shows his vote as his wife Ivana right looks on during the presidential election’s first round vote in Prague on Friday Jan. 12 2018. Czech Republic’s president Milos Zeman and former preside

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Incumbent Milos Zeman has won the first round of the Czech presidential election but faces a run-off after failing to gain the outright majority needed to win outright.

Zeman's challenger for the second round, chemistry professor Jiri Drahos, finished second with 26.6 percent with all votes counted, according to the Czech Statistical Office. His nearest rival is Jiri Drahos, a chemist and the former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences, at 26.6 percent. "By far the toughest game now awaits against Milos Zeman and his advisers".

Czechs are voting for a second day in the first round of presidential elections.

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.

Zeman, previously shunned public debates ahead of the first round, but has now accepted Drahos' challenge to a television duel and said he hoped voters could make up their own mind.

Otherwise, the president has little executive power since the country is run by a government chosen and led by the prime minister.

Presidential candidate Michal Horacek casts his vote as his we wife Michaela and daughter Julie look on during the presidential election’s first round vote in Roudnice nad Labem, on Friday Jan. 12 2018. (Ondre
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A win by any of Zeman's main rivals could mean that voices from the Czech leadership may shift closer to the European Union mainstream, in contrast to ex-communist neighbours such as Poland and Hungary, whose governments have clashed with Brussels.

"I like that he speaks to voters", said Irena Matuskova, a Prague nurse who plans to vote for Zeman.

The outcome may influence Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's chances of finally forming a cabinet as his first attempt to rule in a minority administration is likely to be rejected by parliament next week. He supports continuing Czech membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

If the caretaker prime minister fails to win a vote of confidence before Zeman's term ends in March, the next president may force snap legislative elections. "Now we expect the most hard match - the match with Milos Zeman and his advisers", he told supporters as the first round results emerged.

His reelection would reflect a eurosceptic stance by most Czechs and the public's rejection of accepting migrants and refugees. "It shows he doesn't have much more where to take the votes", said political scientist Josef Mlejnek jr.

In addition to support for Russia, Zeman wants to improve Czech relations with China.

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Accompanying this decision is a two year initiative (Project Boost) to improve cash and profit in both parts of the business. Speculation has been ongoing for a while as to whether the firm would be a takeover target or decide to break itself up.

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