Incumbent Zeman leads Czech presidential election: half votes counted

Incumbent Zeman leads Czech presidential election: half votes counted

Another presidential candidate, former prime minister Mirek Topolanek, said Babis's support for Zeman is related to the fact that Zeman announced on Wednesday that he would want Babis to present signatures of a majority of MPs supporting his next government before he would appoint him prime minister again.

The vote is likely to end in a run-off in two weeks' time and is seen as a referendum on the 73-year-old president, who's been in office since 2013.

While presidents in the Czech Republic have little authority and limited political influence beyond the ability to make constitutional appointments, they can have a significant sway on public opinion.

While the Czech Republic is the EU's richest post-communist member by economic output per capita - it also has the bloc's lowest unemployment and one of its fastest growth rates - Zeman has tapped into anti-migrant rhetoric resembling that of anti-establishment forces that scored gains in European elections a year ago.

The first day of voting on Friday saw Zeman confronted by a topless anti-Kremlin protestor, who called him "Putin's slut" as he made his vote in Prague.

A former centre-left prime minister, Zeman has sought more trade with China and was the only Western leader to attend a military parade in Beijing in 2015. Since then, he's been one of most prominent voices in Europe to call for abolition of sanctions against Russian Federation over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The woman, who Femen said was a Ukrainian citizen, was detained by security guards. The first official results are expected later in the afternoon. He regularly holds voter meetings with crowds of people in smaller towns.

"But anyway he is targeting different voters to Zeman", Mlejnek said. Among them, Jiri Drahos is the most likely candidate to advance.

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Zeman's most serious challenger is Jiri Drahos, 68, a chemical engineer and former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences who has campaigned on anchoring the Czech Republic's place in Europe.

Last October, during a press conference, Milos Zeman took to new levels his open hostility towards journalists by holding a replica of an assault rifle with the inscription: "Towards journalists".

The CTK news agency pegged turnout at 40% after day one of voting. He has the support of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

Zeman has backed Babis even as the billionaire businessman has struggled to get support from other political parties while he battles police allegations he illegally obtained European Union subsidies a decade ago.

Babis said Thursday he'd vote for Zeman in the election.

The two are among the most popular politicians in the country, whose 10.6 million people are widely eurosceptic and reject accepting migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

Among the leading candidates, Zeman has been the most outspoken on migration, linking Muslim immigration to security threats.

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