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Czechs Voting In Second Day Of Presidential Election

Czechs Voting In Second Day Of Presidential Election

Czech President Milos Zeman was attacked by a "Femen" activist as he voted today in the Czech presidential election, where he is expected to win but could possibly face a runoff.

The face-off, on January 26-27, is shaping up to be a clash not only of politics, but also personalities.

Zeman has served as the Czech president since March 2013.

In a 2015 Christmas message, Zeman described the ongoing influx of migrants in Europe as an "organized invasion".

However, with nearly all ballots counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Zeman had 38.6 percent of the vote, a commanding lead over Drahos' 26.6 percent.

With almost all the votes counted, Zeman was credited with 38.57 percent of the vote in the election, held Friday and Saturday, with Drahoš at 26.6 percent, well ahead of third-placed Pavel Fischer, a former ambassador to France, who garnered just over 10 percent.

Zeman has sought more trade and closer ties with China and has warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling for the removal of European Union sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea to boost business.

The billionaire businessman said he would vote for Mr Zeman, 73, for his honesty, political experience and defence of national interests.

Drahos could not be more different.

His more liberal rival Jiří Drahoš is staunchly pro-European and has called for Prague to "play a more active role in the EU".

The 68-year-old Drahoš - a physical chemist and former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences - set himself apart from the pack of challengers to Zeman with a strong, self-assured performance in the final televised debate, held late Thursday.

As the results rolled in, analyst Jiri Pehe told AFP that "Zeman will have a huge problem in the second round". The three pledged their support to Drahos in the runoff.

But a recent poll for Czech Television showed the tide could still turn, with a possible win for Drahos with 48.5 percent of votes predicted for the second round against 44 percent for Zeman.

"I like that he speaks to voters", said Irena Matuskova, a Prague nurse who plans to vote for Zeman. The encounter left Zeman visibly shaken and looking weak. Many voters may switch from their losing candidates to support the runner-up against Zeman.

Michal Horacek, music producer, entrepreneur and now presidential candidate told the BBC: "I do not want the Czech Republic to become a Trojan horse for entities like the Russian Federation and China".

Otherwise, the president has little executive power and the country is run by the government chosen and led by the prime minister, now populist billionaire Andrej Babis, a Zeman ally who faces fraud charges.

The Czech government is led by the prime minister, but unlike other countries where the president has a largely ceremonial role, the Czech president is involved in numerous country's political decisions.

"Drahos has made it very clear that a prosecuted man should not be prime minister", Pehe said.

While the president may influence efforts to break a government stalemate as the cabinet is likely to lose the first confidence vote next week, Czech financial assets have been largely immune to political uncertainty.