Anti-migrant incumbent favored in Czech presidential vote

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Czech President Milos Zeman appeared on Saturday to be heading for a run-off in a presidential election pitting the pro-Russian incumbent against a flock of liberal pro-European rivals.

Zeman won the country's first direct presidential election in 2013 with a roughly 10-point runoff victory.

Zeman, aged 73 and seeking another five years in office, was visibly shaken by the event. and returned later to vote.

Czechs are voting for a new president on Friday and Saturday. Since then, he's been one of most prominent voices in Europe to call for abolition of sanctions against Russian Federation over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Zeman has warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has called for the removal of European Union sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea to boost business, promoting which is one of his stated aims.

Shouting the same slogan, the woman ran towards Zeman, who is running for a second term, in the polling station in the Czech capital, Prague, before being quickly wrestled to the ground by Zeman's bodyguards.

First-round voting started at 2 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Friday and ends Saturday at the same time.

If none of the candidates could win an absolute majority of the vote, the second round will be held two weeks later, on January 26-27.

Jan. 8 2018 Czech Republic's presidential candidate Michal Horacek smiles before addressing media during a press conference held in Prague The Czech Republic. Czech Republic holds a first round of presidenti
Zeman wins Czech presidential first round vote with 90 percent counted

He is a supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump and similarly cultivates his appeal by sniping at the news media and what he calls intellectual elites.

Babis said on Thursday that he would vote for Zeman.

Zeman should do well in the first round due to fragmentation among opposition candidates sharing the same generally pro-EU platform.

Soon after that initial results will indicate which two candidates are likely to contest the expected run-off vote.

Zeman's most serious challenger is Jiri Drahos, 68, a chemical engineer and ex-head of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Zeman once called the 2015 migrant crisis "an organized invasion" of Europe, and has said that Muslims were "impossible to integrate".

The outcome may influence Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's chances of forming a cabinet, although his first attempt to rule in a minority administration is likely to be rejected by parliament next week.

"It is a clash between... the post-communist part of society represented by Zeman and the other part, say, modern, pro-Western, which simply doesn't want this president any more", he told AFP. Zeman has sharply criticised immigration from Muslim countries and linked it to security threats. "Data also show a deepening rift between cities and the countryside".

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