Czechs head to polls for second round of presidential election

Prague, Jan 27 (EFE).- More than 8.3 million citizens of the Czech Republic were called to the polls on Friday to choose a new president, with a retired general expected to defeat a former prime minister and millionaire in a runoff election.

The former Chief of Staff Petr Pavel, who has no political experience but who has made an impression with his direct and conciliatory rhetoric, starts as 57% favorite, according to polls.

His opponent is populist tycoon Andrej Babis, who has held the roles of finance minister and prime minister and is seeking to become head of state to offset the influence of the center-right liberal coalition that removed him from power in the 2021 elections.

Polling stations opened on Friday afternoon and will shut at 9pm, before reopening for six hours on Saturday morning.

The candidates entered the runoff election after a technical tie two weeks ago, when they each won nearly two million votes, although the ex-military officer enjoyed a narrow lead.

The campaign has been acrimonious and has seen death threats against Babis and cyber attacks on Pavel’s website falsely announcing news of his death.

Babis’ path to victory has been complicated by three other defeated candidates urging their supporters to vote for the former general, with analysts predicting that factor could prove decisive for Pavel.

The winner, who will succeed social democrat Milos Zeman, a political ally of Babis, as president, will be announced on Saturday afternoon. EFE


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