Former prime minister, general and economist who is the favorite of Czech presidential elections

“It is 99% clear that two of these three candidates will meet in the second round”Josef Mlejnek, an analyst at Charles University in Prague, told AFP.

After former prime minister Andrej Babis, general Petr Pavel and economist Danuse Nerudova, five more candidates are advancing in the voting.

As it is unlikely that one of the candidates will win more than 50% of the votes in the first round, a runoff will be held on January 27 and 28 against the top two.

According to the polls, if there was such a final, Mr. Pavel and Ms. Nerudova would then both beat Mr. Babis.

The winner will replace 78-year-old Milos Zeman, known for his outspoken and heavy drinking, whose term ends in March and who typically wields more influence than a president in this EU country.

Although his role is essentially ceremonial, he is the head of state who appoints the government, chooses the rector of the central bank, as well as the judges of the Constitutional Court and assumes the functions of the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The new president will be the fourth president since the Czech Republic became an independent country in 1993 after breaking away from Slovakia.

babies in mind

Mr. Babis, who is slightly ahead in opinion polls, is the Czech Republic’s fifth-richest person, according to Forbes magazine.

The 68-year-old MP was prosecuted for his past as a Communist secret police agent and had to defend his business activities, which were considered questionable.

On Monday, a Prague court acquitted him of European subsidy fraud.

Desire to be president “strong, active, independent, fair and hardworking”Mr. Babis enjoys a steady 30% support for the ANO populist movement.

He was head of government in the 2017-2021 legislative elections before losing to current Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s center-right coalition.

Mr. Fiala’s government, which is struggling with record inflation and a public deficit due to the war in Ukraine, has thrown its support behind both Mr. Pavel and Ms. Nerudova.

The head of state, who is often at odds with the authorities, supported Mr. Babis.

Unlike his opponents, Mr. Babis reduced his campaign to meetings with citizens. He carefully avoided election debates.

Fierce competition

True to his military background, Mr. Pavel campaigned on his own accord “restore order” in the Czech Republic and to provide “experienced and calm leadership”.

The 61-year-old headed NATO’s Military Committee in 2015-2018.

An elite paratrooper, he received numerous military honors and helped liberate French soldiers from the Serbo-Croatian war zone.

Mrs. Nerudova, the youngest of the candidates, preferred social networks in her pre-election campaign at the age of 44.

He never missed an opportunity to emphasize strong family ties. An academic by career, Ms. Nerudova rose through the career ladder to become president of Mendel University in her hometown of Brno.

A lover of fishing and mushroom picking, he swore “leave your ego behind” and “communicate with all groups of people”.

Busy requests

Mr. Babis leads in two separate opinion polls by CNN Prima News and the Ipsos agency on Sunday and Monday, but is not far behind Mr. Pavel in two other polls conducted on the same day and broadcast by Czech TV respectively. Media agency.

Their credit is 26-29.5%, and Mrs. Nerudova’s is 21-25%.

“I think that Mr. Babis will go to the second round. Therefore, the question now is whether it is against Mr. Pavel or Mrs. Nerudova.”analyst Mlejnek said.

None of the other candidates could get more than 10% of the votes.

Among them are centrist senators Pavel Fischer and Marek Hilser, far-right lawmaker Jaroslav Basta, entrepreneur Karel Divis and former president of Charles University Thomas Zima.

Polling stations open at 13:00 GMT for the first round and close at 21:00 on Friday. They will reopen at 7:00am GMT on Saturday and close at 1:00pm GMT.

The results are expected on Saturday evening.

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