You may remember Milos Zeman as the President of the Czech Republic who endorsed Donald Trump’s bid for the white house. Or the man who proposed a referendum on the Czech Republic’s membership in the European Union. Well, this past January the right-wing populist leader won his second term as President.
In an article in the Prague Daily Monitor, Honzejik writes that there is growing concern over Zeman’s political agenda in the next five years.
The president has been under criticism in the last couple days as he has attacked the press during his swearing-in speech. Commentators suggest that in his upcoming term he may become even more outspoken and move further right.
Like many other populist movement in Europe the problem seems to stem from the right-wing ideology of “Us vs Them,” and in this case, “Czechs vs Immigration.” Zeman’s ability to capitalize on people’s frustration and even racism is what allowed him to be so successful in this election. He has linked extremist attacks in Europe to immigration and repeatedly said that Islam is not compatible with European culture.
In the Czech Republic, the President has little direct executive power in the country which is instead run by a government chosen and led by the Prime Minister. However, the Prime Minister is appointed by the President. Zeman’s number one choice is populist billionaire Andrej Babis.
Zeman has previously divided his nation on several views: his pro-Russia stance, support for closer ties with China not to mention a strong anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
What could Zeman’s reelection signify? According to an article in the Foreign Policy Group, his victory could further add to the trend of Czech politics of cynicism towards institutions that were once vital in securing democratic development in the post communist period. This includes negative attitudes towards the European project, NATO, and a desire to cooperate with Russia.
This is a sign for Europe that the experiment with populism is far from over.