Looking for a “Czech Kiska”?

It is just one poll, but according to this one Jiří Drahoš would defeat incumbent Miloš Zeman in presidential election second round. So would you say Zeman might be in some troubles in terms of being reelected,  do you think he may change a bit his behavior, statements? Read few comments.

Seán Hanley, Senior Lecturer in East European Politics, University College London

The scenario of finding a “Czech Kiska” who can unite a range of voters to bear a well known, but polarising candidate of the traditional left in the second round is probably the best chance of unseating Zeman. A quite similar scenario played out in Romania with the election of president Iohannis in Romania in 2014.

Even if this polls is the start of a trend and Drahos emerges as a front-running candidate, there is a lot of potential for untested independent candidates to self-destruct or fade out, especially if a third candidate unexpectedly picks up momentum (damaging Drahos without seriously challenging Zeman). The example of Jan Fischer, whose well-funded campaign started a full year before the election, should be a salutary warning here. Zeman’s campaign team will also be well aware of the lessons – and the lessons of Fico’s defeat by Kiska – and will presumably wage an aggressive campaign, which would also suit Zeman’s style and temperament as a politician.

As presidential contests are fairly open – and electoral politics unpredictable these days – it is also possible that a less fancied candidate might up momentum at the right moment and best Zeman to the Castle (although looking at (potential) candidates I struggle to think who).

Zeman will (probably) not have the disadvantage of not being able to run against a right-wing government and has a tarnished record, but he is the incumbent and has a solid base of support and is likely to enjoy less critical coverage in Babis-owned media unless the two fall out amazingly quickly after the October parliamentary elections. His nationalistic stances on the EU, refugees, Islam etc are also popular.

I don’t think Zeman can be much different from the way he is now and I think he would be politically ill-advised to try – other than avoiding major embarrassments that have a short-term impact on his popularity. Zeman has a certain what-you-see-is-what-you-get authenticity which registers with many voters who are well aware of his faults and limitations as a head of state and as a individual , but quite possibly prepared to overlook them (and not interested in what the wider world thinks). The biggest risk to Zeman is otherwise is if his poor health obviously impacts his abilities.

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