Czech President Milos Zeman has won the first round in the nation’s presidential election, and now must face Jiri Drahos, the former head of the country’s Academy of Sciences, in a runoff vote in two weeks.
Eight candidates were hoping to unseat the current controversy-courting 73-year-old leader, who is seeking another five-year term.
With 95 percent of ballots counted by the Czech Statistics Office, and a 61-percent turnout, Zeman was leading with 39.3 percent of the vote, followed by Drahos with 26.3 percent. A former diplomat, Pavel Fischer, placed third with 10.1 percent.
None of the other candidates seeking the largely ceremonial post received a majority of first-round votes, which makes it possible for Drahos to advance to the second round.
Zeman was elected to the largely ceremonial post in 2013 during the country’s first direct presidential vote, a victory that returned the former left-leaning prime minister to power.
In office, he has become known for strong anti-migrant rhetoric that won him support from the populist far-right. He has divided the nation with his pro-Russian stance and his support for closer ties with China.
Zeman was one of the few European leaders to endorse Donald Trump’s bid for the White House. He flew the European Union flag at Prague Castle, but later used every opportunity to attack the 28-nation bloc.
“This looks hopeful,” he told reporters.
The run-off election will be held January 26 and January 27.