First round of presidential elections kicks off in Czechia

The first round of presidential elections is taking place in Czechia this Friday and Saturday. Eight candidates are vying for the position of Czech head of state to replace the incumbent president, Miloš Zeman, whose second term in office ends on March 8. He was the first Czech president to be elected by popular vote.

Miloš Zeman in 2018 | Photo: Prague Castle Administration

The popular vote has been used to elect the president since 2012. Before then, the Czech head of state was elected into office by the two chambers of Czechia’s Parliament. Thus far, the only Czech president to ever be elected directly by the people was Miloš Zeman, whose second term is set to end on March 8 of this year.


He will be succeeded by one of eight candidates who are vying for the position. Among them are senators Pavel Fischer and Marek Hilšer, who both ran in the previous election in 2018 as well.

Two members of the Chamber of Deputies are also on the list of candidates. Jaroslav Bašta was a minister in Miloš Zeman’s government from 1998 to 2000 and subsequently ambassador to Russia and Ukraine. He is currently serving as an MP for the Freedom and Direct Democracy party.

Former premier and current ANO party leader Andrej Babiš has also thrown his hat into the contest. Before entering politics, Mr Babiš founded and ran Agrofert, a multi-billion dollar business that is primarily active in the agriculture and chemical sectors.

Former university rectors Danuše Nerudová and Tomáš Zima both come from an academic background. Dr Nerudová is an economist who used to be in charge of the Mendel University in Brno. In the past she has also served as an advisor to the government. Dr Zima led Charles University for eight years. A biochemist, he is, among other things, the author of several hundred scientific articles.

In the running is also retired General Petr Pavel, who served as the chief of the Czech General Staff from 2012 to 2015 before becoming the chair NATO’s Military Committee, a position he held for three years.

Businessman Karel Diviš is also attempting to win the favour of voters. A former Czech Television journalist, Mr Diviš is known as the founder and CEO of the technology company IDC – software house.

Second round

If none of the candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, a subsequent second round will take place on January 27 and 28. In the previous two popular elections no candidate ever succeeded in the first round. However, the winner of the first round has so far always gone on to win the presidency.

The person who succeeds Miloš Zeman will receive a five year mandate to serve as head of state. The mandate can be held for a maximum of two successive terms and therefore for a total of 10 years.

Czech Constitution | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Constitutionally, Czechia is a parliamentary republic and the position of president is thus primarily a representative role. However, the holder of the office can exercise significant influence through the powers invested in them through the constitution. He or she for example names Constitutional judges, the members of the council of the Czech National Bank, the heads of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Audit Office. The head of state is also the supreme commander of the armed forces and names the head of government and the members of their cabinet.

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    Retired army general, Petr Pavel, has been elected the next president of Czechia. He will be sworn in on March 9.