The Cable

Czech President Milos Zeman to Run for Second Term

Czechs may not have seen the last of this colorful character.

zeman

Czech President Milos Zeman told supporters gathered at Prague Castle on Thursday to celebrate the anniversary of his 2013 election that he will indeed run for a second term.

Zeman is what we will here call a polarizing figure. He was the first president to be directly elected. In Oct. 2016, thousands took to Prague’s streets to protest their president after Zeman was accused of refusing to present a high-state award to Holocaust survivor Jiri Brady after his nephew, Daniel Herman, minister of culture, met with the Dalai Lama. Zeman, a proponent of stronger economic ties between the Czech Republic and China, condemned the meeting (but also denied the allegations and said the rally was the part of political machinations against him).

Zeman has also called for closer ties to Russia, criticized European sanctions imposed for the illegal annexation of Crimea, and rebuked the European Union for failing to stop the flow of migrants and refugees. His phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump apparently went very well. He was reportedly displeased with the Interior Ministry’s decision to establish a center to deal with “hybrid threats,” and in particular Russian disinformation. He is often openly at odds with the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka.

Sobotka also has campaigning on his mind. The Czech Republic’s parliamentary elections are this coming October. Sobotka is charged with fending off Andrej Babis and his ANO party. Babis is the country’s finance minister — and also its second richest man and most popular politician. His ANO party advocates fiscal restraint and is opposed to traditional establishment politics and politicians.

The presidential elections will be held Jan. 2018. Some suspect Zeman will back Babis in exchange for Babis’s supporting Zeman. The man who might be the next prime minister may, after all, need some help when government formation negotiations come around in the months after his potential election and before the presidential race concludes.

Photo credit: MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

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