Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Foreign media highlight President Zeman's re-election

ČTK |
29 January 2018

Moscow/Berlin/Warsaw/Washington/Brussels, Jan 28 (CTK) - A supporter of friendly relations with Moscow and a sanctions opponent will remain Czech president, Russian press says, while the Western media write about the victory of anti-EU populism in their commentaries on Milos Zeman's re-election on Sunday.

Zeman, 73, won the weekend presidential runoff in the Czech Republic with 51.4 percent of the vote, beating former Science Academy head Jiri Drahos (48.6 percent), and he defended his post for another five years.

The Russian government Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily explains the charm of Zeman, a churlish and cynical pragmatist, that prevailed over his rival's chemistry. It also says the incumbent president better reflects the Czech character and Czech citizens' fears of losing their identity.

The Komsomolskaya pravda popular daily reminds of the narrow presidential election battle. Zeman's major rival Drahos, a representative of liberal intellectuals, criticised Zeman for his too cordial relations to Moscow, it adds.

In view of Zeman's sceptical approach to the anti-Russian sanctions, the European Union and NATO, the presidential election became a referendum "on support not only for the first man in the country, but also for the whole Eastern vector of his politics," Komsomolskaya pravda writes.

It also publishes the opinion by political analyst Stanislav Byshok, saying Zeman sensed well Czechs' propensity for rightist populism, which was manifested in the last autumn general election, in which the "Czech Trump," billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, scored a triumph. Zeman supported Babis then, while Babis helped him be re-elected now, the paper adds, citing Byshok.

The close victory of Zeman proves that the Czech Republic is split, Die Zeit German magazine writes on its website.

The Server Spiegel Online writes that Zeman defended his post despite all negative phenomena connected with him.

"He was a favourite for long. Then it seemed that an outsider might closely beat him. Now the incumbent Czech president managed it once more after all, despite all his stormy and embarrassing public performances, despite a number of hateful statements, despite his illnesses and feebleness," Spiegel Online writes.

It asks whether Zeman will choose another, less provocative political line, without so many sharp confrontations, now, pointing to Zeman's ability to change stances. In the past, he stood up as a convinced supporter of Europe, while later he turned into a nationalist rightist populist who liked visiting Russia and China, the server adds.

Zeit Online also points to Zeman's warm relations to Moscow, saying "Russia's friend won the election in the Czech Republic."

While Zeman was striving for excellent relations with Moscow and Beijing, hardly anyone was inviting him to Western countries, Die Zeit writes. "Yet the economic importance of Russia and China for the Czech Republic is hardly worth mentioning. Bavaria alone is trading with Prague more than Beijing and Moscow together," the website writes.

Zeman's victory in the Czech presidential runoff is bad news for the Czech Republic, the region and whole Europe since former Social Democrat Zeman is "a populist tribune of the people" who based his immense popularity on a smear campaign, Polish daily Polityka writes on its website.

"In the times when the European Union faces a crisis, the Czech Republic is another Eastern country that is plunging into chaos and uncertainty," Polityka writes. The only hope is the good result of Drahos, a political debutant, who reflected the expectations of a big part of society and almost won, it adds.

Before the election, liberals in the Czech Republic were cherishing great hopes that Drahos would improve the harmed reputation of the country as the bastion of Western values, but such hopes were apparently vain, the Polish issue of Newsweek American magazine writes.

It says the anti-EU, anti-immigration and pro-Russian Zeman won the most important election since the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, with a record high turnout (66.6 percent).

"Pro-Trump Czech president who warned of 'organized invasion' of migrants wins re-election," the Fox News U.S. server wrote on Sunday in its headline.

"Europe's populist movement was given a shot in the arm on Saturday when Czech Republic President Milos Zeman, running primarily on an anti-migration platform, fended off a challenge from political neophyte Jiri Drahos," Fox News adds.

It writes that Zeman was one of very few European leaders "to endorse President Donald Trump's bid for the White House."

"Zeman's victory cements the anti-E.U. and anti-migration nature of the Czech government, after the victory in October of billionaire Andrej Babis, whose anti-establishment ANO (Yes) movement won after taking a similar approach to migration," Fox New writes in conclusion.

The CNN TV also writes on its website that Zeman is an admirer of Trump, a loud opponent of immigration and an adherent of close relations with Russia.

Bloomberg agency says Zeman's triumph also means the victory of the political forces that resist the establishment and are fighting the EU's liberal and multicultural values.

"The re-election of Europe's 'Trumpiest president' shows the Continent's populist tide is not receding," the Brussels-based server Politico.eu writes, commenting on Zeman's re-election.

"The result, albeit by a narrow margin is a blow for those who had hoped that electoral setbacks for anti-EU forces in France and the Netherlands last year were evidence that the populist surge was waning," Politico adds.

It says Zeman has invited obvious comparisons with Trump. "After Trump's election, he was an early invitee to the White House, being the only European head of state to back Trump as a candidate,"it writes.

"Zeman's victory was another demonstration of his consummate political skills and proof of the deep division in Czech society that he, more than anyone else, has created and exploited," Politico writes.

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