Robert Harneis -TDO- (FRANCE) The re-election on Saturday of Milos Zeman as president of the Czech Republic is bad news for Brussels. The Eurosceptic Zeman has been described as pro-Russian, pro-Chinese and anti-immigrant. His election will strengthen the block of eastern member states led by Poland and Hungary that strongly object to the European Union’s current immigration policies. 73-year-old Zeman saw off a strong challenge from the academic and more Brussels compatible Jiri Drahos. He achieved 51.36% of the votes. The turnout was 66.6%.
Fear of an invasion of culturally different migrants and resentment at the quota system, insisted on by Brussels, clearly played an important role in Zeman’s success. He has described the inflow of migrants into Europe as ‘an organized invasion’ and ‘a cultural broth that encourages terrorist attacks’.
Milos Zeman is Czechoslovakia’s third president and the first to be directly elected. He is an economist. First elected in 2013 favoring closer European integration, he has since moved away from this position, growing more and more critical of the European Union. It is not so much that he is pro-Russian or Chinese but that he criticizes the European Union for being mindlessly hostile to China and especially to Russia.
He was the only Western head of state to attend the celebrations in Russia marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 2015. When the US ambassador criticized him for this, he reacted by banning him from the presidential palace. Similarly, he was the only Western head of state to attend the ceremony in the Chinese capital marking the anniversary of the capitulation of Japan in 1945.
He has criticized sanctions by the European Union against Russia over the war in the Donbass. Exceptionally he supported the election of Donald Trump in the United States in 2016. He has also supported Trump in moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. The European Union has taken a strong line against this policy.
He has also criticized Western nations for ‘double standards’ in recognizing breakaway Kosovo whilst at the same time sanctioning Russia for accepting reunification with breakaway Crimea.
The Czech Republic has had difficulty forming a government since Parliamentary elections last October. The most successful party was the centrist ANO with 78 out of 200 seats led by the billionaire Andrej Babis. On 16 January Babis proposed a minority government composed of ANO ministers supported with non-party technocratic colleagues. This was unanimously rejected by the other parties.
Until now Zeman has supported Babis’ efforts to form a government. However now that he has successfully achieved re-election his attitude may change, particularly as the Prime Minister is under investigation for fraud relating to EU subsidies going back to the years 2007 and 2008. Babis is currently attempting to form a new coalition.
It is likely that the re-elected president will now insist on new ministers that reflect his own policies. He has made clear that any coalition has the support of at least 101 members out of the total of 200 members of Parliament. This will be difficult to achieve.