Political Risk Analysis - Quick View: Tight Race In Second Round Presidential Election Ahead - MAR 2018

The Latest: With none of the nine candidates having won an absolute majority in the Czech presidential elections of January 12-13, the incumbent President Milos Zeman and runner-up Jiri Drahos will face a second run-off vote in two weeks' time. Zeman won 38.67% of the vote, followed by Drahos with 26.6%, both well ahead of third placed Pavel Fischer, who managed to secure just over 10% of the vote.

Implications: The outcome of the first round vote confirmed a recent trend that Zeman's lead over Drahos is narrowing. In fact, a TNS Kantar and Median Poll conducted on January 3-7, now sees Drahos leading 4.5% percentage points ahead of Zeman. That said, this lead is by no means indicative of a second round victory, as Zeman more than doubled his vote (from 24.0% in the first round to 54.80% in the second round) in the 2013 election. In any case, although the Czech presidency is largely of ceremonial importance, a Drahos victory would imply a policy shift in the presidential agenda, which plays a key party in shaping the public political discourse. Whilst Zeman for instance favours closer ties with Russia and China, which is often at odds with European Union policy, Drahos is outspokenly pro-European, although he also rejects the EU's migrant quota system. In any case, given the tight race between the two candidates identifying definitive winner in the second round is currently too close to call.

What's Next? The second round vote will be held on January 26-27, leaving the candidates with some time to campaign ahead of the final election. In the meantime, on January 16, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis will face a vote of confidence in his minority government, which he is likely going to lose due to a scandal surrounding his alleged corruption. That said, Zeman, as a close ally of the prime minister, already announced that he would grant Babis a second vote, providing Babis could form a workable government. If Babis were to fail to muster such support, and if Drahos were to win the elections, a continued Babis premiership is a lot less likely, as the presidential challenger has already announced that a country cannot be ruled by a person who is pending to be investigated for corruption.

Zeman's Lead No Harbinger For Second Round Victory
Czech Republic - First Round Presidential Election Vote, %
Source: Czech Statistical Office, BMI

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