Milos Zeman, 73, the pro-Russian and Eurosceptic president of the Czech Republic, easily won the first round of voting on Friday. Zeman will face a pro-EU rival at a presidential election run off on January 26-27.
The Czech Statistics Office confirmed on Saturday, that the pro-Russian candidate Zeman secured 38.75 percent of the vote after 99.13 percent of votes in Friday’s election had been counted.
His nearest rival, Jiri Drahos, trailed behind with 26.51 percent of the vote. The two will now face each other in a second round of voting.
Zeman has been president of the Czech Republic since 2013 and not only draws support for his friendly stance towards Russia, but also from anti-immigration statements. He has criticised immigration flows from Muslim countries and Germany’s decision to accept a tidal wave of migrants.
He has opposed EU sanctions against Russia over the Crimean referendum and war on east Ukraine, and is regarded by pro-European rivals as too close to both Moscow and Beijing.
Voters have appreciated Zeman’s political incorrectness in the largely symbolic role the president of the country plays, as most Czechs share his views on immigration.
Zeman has suggested that the Czech Republic follow Britain in leaving the EU.
“I congratulate Jiri Drahos for this beautiful second place,” Zeman joked to supporters gathered at his campaign headquarters in Prague on Saturday afternoon.
“I invite all those who want to vote for me to come to the polling stations in round two too, and bring your friends, your lovers and their mistresses,” he said.
Four other candidates who took part, and ended in the third and sixth place, winning 32.5 percent among them, all said they would endorse Drahos which could lead to a tight finish, the Guardian noted.
Drahos, 68, is not currently affiliated with a political party. He is a former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and said he would be campaigning to “anchor the Czech Republic in Euro-Atlanticism”.