Scientist Jiří Drahoš announces candidacy for Czech president

Jiří Drahoš, photo: CTK

Jiří Drahoš‏, a former head of the Academy of Sciences, has become the latest candidate to throw his hat into the ring for the post of Czech president. But what are the chances of the scientist beating the incumbent Miloš Zeman and the other contenders in next year’s presidential elections?

Jiří Drahoš,  photo: CTK
The announcement was made on Tuesday evening in the House of Culture in the eastern Silesian town of Jablunkov, the native village of the 68-year-old Drahoš. He is the fifth candidate to declare an intention to unseat the incumbent Miloš Zeman in elections set to take place early next year. The academic tweeted video from the rally:

“I would like to announce to you all – and I do so first in Jablunkov, which I feel is an entirely appropriate decision – in front of my fellow townsfolk, and in front of the people and the place that helped to shape who I am, that I am running as a candidate for president of the Republic.”

Drahoš is a physical chemist by education and was head of the Czech Academy of Sciences from 2009 until last week. His interest in running for the presidency was revealed back in October 2016 when he told newspaper Právo that a number of supporters across the political and professional fields had been urging him to run. He also argued that, unlike presidents Václav Klaus and Miloš Zeman, the country needed an independent candidate, unconnected to major political parties. Though lacking political experience, Mr. Drahoš is no stranger to either public speaking or making appearances in the media. Furthermore, the prestige of his scientific post could also serve as an asset.

Jan Hartl of polling firm STEM summed up the candidate’s potential strengths and weaknesses:

“His experiences as being a formal head of the Academy of Sciences are an asset. He might be perceived as a suitable formal head of state, able to carry out representative functions. This is an important part of the role of the president of the Czech Republic. His weakness is that although he may enjoy a good reputation among scientists, even though he is 68-years-old, very little is known about his public positions on various issues.”

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Jiří Ovčáček, spokesperson for President Zeman, responded to Drahoš’s candidacy on Twitter saying the race will be between Mr. Zeman as a “candidate of the people of our beautiful country” and a “candidate of the media, and an artificial product of PR.” Latest opinion polls suggest President Zeman enjoys a 54 percent approval rating. However, Jan Hartl does not think Zeman’s re-election is so clear cut:

“When respondents (we polled) answered the question of whether they would like Miloš Zeman to run for a second term, only 41 percent of them said they would. So it means that there is a wide space for other candidates.”