President Zeman’s decision to run for a second term in office was widely anticipated on the Czech political scene. And although the president has no party backing, and many are stressing the need for change, there is still no strong rival on the horizon to challenge him for the top post. I asked the head of the STEM polling agency Jan Hartl to assess how strong Mr. Zeman’s position is after four years in office and whether potential rivals stand any chance of replacing him.
“At present his position is relatively strong. He is supported by about 57 percent of the population. His trust rating went up and down in the course of those four years. It decreased by almost 20 percent in 2013 and 2014 and it improved later on due to the migrant crisis and the fear of incoming refugees from the East. He gained strong support from the majority population for his anti-migrant stance and so he has a 57 percent trust rating at present.”
So he is pretty much as strong as he was when he got elected for the first term?
“At this moment yes. But we also asked respondents whether they would like to see him re-elected and the outcome is 43 percent, at the moment.”
What will play in Mr. Zeman’s favour and what will go against him?
“Well, in the eyes of the majority of people he seems to be a very strong head of state, although it is not completely clear where his strength stems from. Miloš Zeman plays on visible, popular issues that are of public concern, such as the threat of migration, nurturing a sense of national pride and so on. “
And what could play against him?
“Well, his position in manoeuvring between the West and the East is not very clear, that is one thing. And roughly estimated, a third of the population with a higher education, people who are interested in politics, are looking for positive solutions to contemporary problems in the society. These people also demand dignity from the head of state.”
“Those people would be people from the political centre, people who are undecided, people who are not interested in politics, people who are not certain of whether they want to vote in the election. Miloš Zeman has majority support at the moment, but if you look at the intensity of his support, it is relatively weak. And part of those who support Miloš Zeman do so simply because they do not see any alternative. There is no alternative to Miloš Zeman at hand at the moment but if there were it might have appeal and so we have to wait and see whether such a candidate will appear within the coming weeks and months.”