Czechia is heading to the polls to elect a new president in January to replace the controversial Miloš Zeman after a ten-year tenure in office.
While it is unlikely that any candidate will win the majority of the votes in the first round, three have emerged as leading contenders to enter a run-off.
The ANO party, which sits with the liberal and centrist Renew Europe Group in the EU Parliament, supports former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, currently polling at around 27%.
The centre-right and national-conservative SPOLU alliance of ODS (ECR Group in the EU Parliament), KDU-ČSL and TOP 09 (EPP Group) endorsed three candidates; Petr Pavel, a non-partisan and former military general, polling at around 25%, and Danuše Nerudová, a non-partisan and economics professor, polling at around the same level. Currently rising in the polls, she would be the first woman to hold the position.
The last of the three candidates endorsed by SPOLU, Fischer, has little chance of making it into the second round as per current polling (5-6%). Fischer is a former diplomat and senator. He won 10.2% in the first round of the 2018 Presidential election.
Marek Hilšer, head of his own centrist Marek Hilšer do Senátu party (no EU-level affiliation), is polling at around 4%, down from 8.8% in the 2018 election.
Centre-left Josef Středula (supported by ČSSD, which sits with the S&D Group in the EU Parliament) and right-wing SPD (ID Group in the EU Parliament) party candidate Jaroslav Bašta are polling at around 3%. Several independent candidates are polling at less than 3%.
The January presidential elections in the Czech Republic will mark the end of Zeman’s ten-year tenure in office. Characterised by his pro-Russian and pro-Chinese views, he has often distorted the government’s foreign policy and undermined the legitimacy of the presidential office by bending the constitution.
Together with former prime minister Andrej Babiš, they formed a duo that kept each other in power. It is Babiš who is now seeking the presidency, which would mean the return of his populism and “pragmatism” to the Czech leadership.
Babiš, who is currently in the final stages of a trial over EU subsidy fraud, among other problems, is leading in some polls. Pavel carries with him the stigma of active membership in the Communist Party but has since built a reputation abroad and is strongly pro-Western.
Nerudová also has a strong chance of winning, but even she is not without blemishes, for example, the dubious awarding of degrees at her university, an unfolding scandal that may yet affect her chances at the ballot box.
Neither Pavel nor Nerudová would disrupt the EU, but the same cannot be said of erratic Babiš. However, run-off polls suggest that Babiš is unlikely to win the presidency, especially if the former head of government goes up against either Pavel or Nerudová.