Czech president leads voting, but will face runoff election

Presidential candidate Jiri Drahos accompanied by his wife Eva arrives to address media after announcement of the preliminary results of the presidential elections in Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Czech President Milos Zeman failed to win re-election during the first round of voting on Saturday and will face a runoff election in two weeks against the former head of the country's Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Czech President and presidential candidate Milos Zeman speaks during a press conference after the first round of presidential voting in Prague on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Milos Zeman will face a runoff election in two weeks against former head of the country's Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos. (Michal Kamaryt/CTK via AP)
Presidential candidate Jiri Drahos accompanied by his wife Eva addresses media after announcement of the preliminary results of the presidential elections in Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Czech President Milos Zeman failed to win re-election during the first round of voting on Saturday and will face a runoff election in two weeks against the former head of the country's Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Presidential candidate and Czech President Milos Zeman shows his vote as his wife Ivana, right, looks on during the presidential election's first round vote in Prague, on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. Czech Republic's president Milos Zeman and former president of the Czech Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos are considered as favorites to advance to the runoffs on Jan. 26th and 27th. (Vit Simanek/CTK via AP)
Czech President and presidential candidate Milos Zeman kisses his wife Ivana prior to a press conference after the first round of presidential voting in Prague on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Milos Zeman will face a runoff election in two weeks against former head of the country's Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos. The banners in the backgrounds read "Zeman again 2018". (Michal Kamaryt/CTK via AP)
Presidential candidate Jiri Drahos arrives to address media after announcement of the preliminary results of the presidential elections in Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Czech President Milos Zeman failed to win re-election during the first round of voting on Saturday and will face a runoff election in two weeks against the former head of the country's Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Presidential candidate Jiri Drahos prepares to cast a vote during first round of Presidential elections in Prague, Czech Republic, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. The Czechs are electing a new president with eight candidates hoping to unseat the current controversy-courting leader. The 73-year-old Milos Zeman who is seeking a second five-year term is a favorite to win the election's first round vote on Friday and Saturday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Czech President and presidential candidate Milos Zeman attends a press conference after the first round of presidential voting in Prague on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Milos Zeman will face a runoff election in two weeks against former head of the country's Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos. (Michal Kamaryt/CTK via AP)
Presidential candidate Michal Horacek casts his vote as his we wife Michaela and daughter Julie look on during the presidential election's first round vote in Roudnice nad Labem (50 kilometres/31 miles North of Prague), on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (Ondrej Hajek/CTK via AP)
Presidential candidate Jiri Drahos addresses media after announcement of the preliminary results of the presidential elections in Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Czech President Milos Zeman failed to win re-election during the first round of voting on Saturday and will face a runoff election in two weeks against the former head of the country's Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE — Czech President Milos Zeman failed to win re-election during the first round of a presidential election Saturday and will face a runoff in two weeks against the former head of the country's Academy of Sciences.

Zeman and Jiri Drahos advanced to a second round of voting because none of the nine candidates seeking the Czech Republic's largely ceremonial presidency received a majority of votes in the first round held Friday and Saturday.

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

A former diplomat, Pavel Fischer, was a distant third with 10.2 percent. Songwriter Michal Horacek finished fourth with 9.2 percent, ahead of physician Marek Hilser, who had 8.8 percent. The three pledged their support to Drahos in the runoff.

Zeman congratulated Drahos and said he was ready to debate him before the Jan. 26-Jan. 27 runoff. Zeman didn't take part in any debates ahead of the first round of voting.

"Mr. Drahos said that he would like to meet me face to face. I am happy to oblige him," the president said.

Election officials said voter turnout was 61.9 percent in the preliminary election. Drahos called on all those "who want a change" to cast ballots in the runoff.

"The final is still ahead of us, and that's what matters," Drahos said.

Zeman, 73, was elected in 2013 during the country's first direct presidential vote, a victory that returned the former left-leaning prime minister to power. As president, he has become a strong anti-migrant voice and major pro-Russian voice in European Union politics.

A chain smoker with a soft spot for alcohol, he was one of the few European leaders to endorse Donald Trump's bid for the White House.

Drahos, 68, is seen as more western-oriented and firmly supports the country's EU and NATO membership.

The previous two presidents of the country created in 1993 when Czechoslovakia was split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus, were elected by Parliament.

Under the Czech Constitution, the president picks the prime minister after a general election, one of the office's key responsibilities.

The president also appoints members of the Central Bank board and selects Constitutional Court judges with the approval of Parliament's upper house.

Otherwise, the president has little executive power since the country is run by a government chosen and led by the prime minister.

Zeman was considered a more pro-European than his euroskeptic predecessor Klaus, but in recent years has used every opportunity to attack the EU, and has proposed a referendum on the country's membership in the bloc after Britain decided to leave.

He also has become known for strong anti-migrant rhetoric that won him support from the populist right. He has divided the nation with his pro-Russian stance and his support for closer ties with China.

Drahos is a political newcomer who is not affiliated with a political party and has said he wants the values of "truth, reason and decency" to win. He says he is worried about the rise of extremism and populism. A professor of chemistry, he headed the academy from 2009 until last year.

Must Read

10 Things to Know for Thursday

Aug 11, 2016

Among 10 Things to Know: Criticism may be slowing Trump train; 'Grim Sleeper' sent to death row; versatile ESPN sportscaster dies at 61

If Trump can't get along with GOP, how will he govern?

Aug 9, 2016

Beyond the political fallout from Donald Trump's rocky relationship with party elders lies a fundamental reality: Should he win the presidency, the brash billionaire will have to work closely with the same GOP leaders he vilified on the campaign trail

Valeant's rosy forecast and promised changes, fire up shares

Aug 9, 2016

Drugmaker Valeant posts big 2Q loss, but execs tout turn-around plan and reassured investors drive up shares

People also read these

Rio authorities step up security after bus windows shattered

Aug 10, 2016

Military police in Rio de Janeiro are stepping up security at the Olympics after a bus carrying journalists had two of its windows shattered by a projectile and a bullet flew into the stables of the equestrian venue

House Speaker Paul Ryan wins GOP nomination to run again

Aug 10, 2016

House Speaker Paul Ryan has defeated a longshot Republican primary challenger who had been praised by Donald Trump

UN bungles response to Africa's yellow fever outbreak

Aug 5, 2016

An AP investigation finds that 1 million doses of yellow fever vaccines vanished in Angola as the World Health Organization's response lagged for months

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH