Czech Republic: Czech Republic Re-elects Milos Zeman, Populist Leader and Foe of Migrants | The New York Times

After an election campaign centered on questions of civility in politics and the Czech Republic’s place in Europe, voters decided on Saturday to stick with President Milos Zeman and his often-caustic brand of populism that has stoked resentment toward Muslim immigrants and ruptured the country’s relationship with its allies to the west. His opponent, Jiri Drahos, a political novice whose views were not well known, sought to present himself as an antidote to what he characterized as Mr. Zeman’s bitter and divisive leadership. In recent years, Mr. Zeman, 73, has strengthened the country’s ties with Russia and has courted China. Mr. Drahos, 68, offered a firm commitment not just to the country’s membership in the European Union, but also to the bloc’s values. In rejecting his vision, the country was poised to continue in the same euroskeptic direction as its neighbors Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

With more than 99 percent of the votes counted, the state-owned Czech News Agency declared Mr. Zeman the winner with 51.4 percent of the votes (or 2.8 million), compared with Mr. Drahos’s 48.6 percent (2.7 million).

“The Russians could not be happier,” said Michal Koran, an analyst at the Aspen Institute, a think tank based in Prague, and the founder of the Global Arena Research Institute, which uses economic data to help understand political trends. “For all the talk of Russian meddling — and I believe they have meddled beyond a shadow of a doubt,” he added, “Europe is dividing itself, and they do not have to do much.”

Outside observers cited as an example of Russian interference a pernicious social media campaign against Mr. Drahos that accused him, with no evidence, of being a collaborator of the secret police during Communist rule.

Full Article: Czech Republic Re-elects Milos Zeman, Populist Leader and Foe of Migrants – The New York Times.

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