The outgoing eurosceptic Czech President Milos Zeman has been re-elected for a second five-year term after defeating pro-European opponent Jiri Drahos in a run-off vote on Saturday.
With 99 percent of the ballots counted, Zeman, 73, took 51.5 percent of the vote to Drahos’s 48.5 percent. In the Czech Republic, the President has the power to appoint the prime minister judges, central bankers.
The elections, which pitted two radically different opponents against each other, polarised Czech society, particularly around the issue of immigration and the orientation of the country’s foreign policy.
Along with a number of other central European leaders, the outgoing head of state shares a deep distrust of the EU’s refugee policy and has refused to accept migrants from Muslim countries.
Drahos also expressed opposition to the quota system for distributing migrants throughout the European Union, but pleaded for better relations with the European partners of Prague.
The vote was held against the backdrop of problems with the minority government of Andrej Babiš, an ally of Milos Zeman. Charged with fraud with European subsidies, the populist billionaire lost a vote of confidence in Parliament and presented the president with the formal resignation of his cabinet last week.
Zeman’s victory has thrown a lifeline to Babiš as the President promised that if he won the election he would afford the prime minister a second attempt to form a government before his current term of office ends in April.