Voters handed a second term to incumbent president Miloš Zeman in the Czech presidential election 2018.
Zeman defeated his runoff opponent, Jiří Drahoš, by a margin of 51.4 to 48.6 percent on about 67 percent turnout. The president, a populist and vocal critic of unchecked immigration, faced off against a more pro-European candidate in Drahoš. The latter was most recently the president of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
Zeman had the endorsement of the Party of Civic Rights (SPO), a left-of-center political party that positions itself towards the anti-European side. Drahoš, officially running as an independent, received the endorsement of the Christian and Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People’s Party, a centrist, pro-European party.
Czech Presidential Election 2018: The Results
Zeman lost over three percent of the vote from his 2013 runoff total of 54.8 percent.
As was expected, the urban areas slanted towards Drahoš, while rural areas re-elected Zeman. The Capital City of Prague region gave Drahoš almost 69 percent of the vote, while Central Bohemia was his next-best at 53 percent. At least, among precincts within Czechia proper. Drahoš cleaned up the foreign precincts, with just over 90 percent of voting ex-pats going for the academic over Zeman.
The president ran up the score the further away from Prague you got. Moravia-Silesia, in the far east of the Czech Republic, was Zeman’s best region at 62 percent of the vote.
Czech Presidential Election 2018: What’s Next for Czechia?
The Czech Republic or Czechia, depending on who you ask, is due for five more years of sharply divided opinion over Zeman’s leadership. The rural-urban partition in Czech politics is made clear with the results map. Czechia’s capital city of about one and a quarter million delivered the most major victory for Drahoš, while Czechs living abroad soundly rejected Zeman. Nevertheless, outside of the nation’s most visible city, voters angled towards the president.
As for Zeman’s policy agenda, expect more of the same when it comes to immigration, or the lack thereof. He has also staked out stances favoring closer ties with China and Russia. A further closening of ties with the United States is also possible, given that Zeman backed American president Donald Trump.
The country’s role in the European Union may also be tested in the coming years. Zeman favors a referendum on Czechia’s membership in the EU a la the 2016 “Brexit” vote. In 2016, the Czech president made the same request, but the prime minister rejected a call for a national plebiscite. Zeman himself cannot arrange such a poll, and in a 2017 CVVM survey, a majority of Czechs still approved of membership in the European Union. Almost two in five, however, opposed it, and just one in five was strongly in favor. Zeman’s victory demonstrated that attitudes are perhaps not changing.
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