Drahoš and ex-hockey star Hašek show early interest in running for presidency

Jiří Drahoš, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech Radio

President Miloš Zeman is due to remain in office until early 2023. But that hasn’t stopped names of possible successors already appearing in the media. Mr. Zeman’s defeated opponent in last year’s runoff, Jiří Drahoš, says a second run is "definitely in play”, while ex-sports star Dominik Hašek has also signalled his interest.

Jiří Drahoš,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech Radio
When Miloš Zeman was re-elected Czech head of state in January 2018, he received 51.4 percent of the vote in the second round runoff, compared to 48.6 percent for Jiří Drahoš.

Mr. Drahoš, a former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences, received the backing of 2.7 million voters.

He later won a seat in the Czech Senate as an independent.

Earlier this year Mr. Drahoš, who is now 70, was cagey about the possibility he might take a second run at the presidency, saying he was not focusing on what would be four years down the line.

Though the next elections for head of state are still three and a half years away, Mr. Drahoš has evidently changed his tune somewhat.

In an interview published by Deník.cz on Saturday, he said his candidacy was “definitely in play”.

Mr. Drahoš told the news organisation that one reason for this was that he was fielding ever more questions at demonstrations and debates about whether he would stand again next time.

The timing of this statement may not be coincidental. Just a day earlier ex-ice hockey star Dominik Hašek surprised many by saying in a radio interview that he would not rule out running to succeed Mr. Zeman.

Once nicknamed “the Dominator” for his goaltending prowess, Mr. Hašek responded to a question about his potential candidature by saying “why not? I could somehow imagine it”.

Though not previously known for political pronouncements, Dominik Hašek did appear at a major demonstration against Prime Minister Babiš in May.

Dominik Hašek,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková / Czech Radio
He is extremely well-known in the Czech Republic, having won two Stanley Cups and a host of individual honours in the NHL, as well as starring in the Czech team that won the Olympics in 1998. Indeed after Nagano chants of “Hašek for President” were heard in Prague.

While discussing their possible candidatures, both “the Dominator” and Mr. Drahoš added the caveat that it was too early to make pronouncements about what they would be doing in a few years’ time.

They are not the only names floating around. Pavel Fischer, who came third in the first round in 2018, has already announced that he will run in 2023.

Two-time president Václav Klaus, who is 78, said in January that the field should be left to younger candidates, though he added that running again was a possibility.

Some speculate that his son Václav Klaus Jr. – who has a new party, Tricolour – may have his eye on Prague Castle.