Anti-migrant incumbent favored in Czech presidential vote

FILE- In this file picture taken on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, Czech Republic's President Milos Zeman, makes a speech during a Parliament session in Prague, Czech Republic. The Czech Republic holds a first round of presidential elections on Jan. 12-13th, 2018.(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Presidential candidate and Czech President Milos Zeman shows his vote as his wife Ivana, right, looks on during the presidential election's first round vote in Prague, on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. Czech Republic's president Milos Zeman and former president of the Czech Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos are considered as favorites to advance to the runoffs on Jan. 26th and 27th. (Vit Simanek/CTK via AP)
FILE - In this file picture taken on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, Czech Republic's presidential candidate Michal Horacek smiles before addressing media during a press conference held in Prague, The Czech Republic. Czech Republic holds a first round of presidential elections on Jan. 12-13th, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
FILE - In this file picture taken on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, Czech Republic's presidential candidate Jiri Drahos attends a political debate in the village of Radonice, Czech Republic. Czech Republic holds a first round of presidential elections on Jan. 12-13th, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
FILE - In this file picture taken on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, Czech Republic's presidential candidate Mirek Topolanek smiles during a political debate in the village of Radonice, Czech Republic. The Czech Republic holds a first round of presidential elections on Jan. 12-13th, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
This video frame shows Czech President Milos Zeman, in front, being taken away by security officers as their colleagues, right in the background, interfere with a naked woman shouting at Zeman trying to cast his vote during the presidential election's first round vote in Prague, on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. Czech Republic's president Milos Zeman and former president of the Czech Academy of Sciences Jiri Drahos are considered as favorites to advance to the runoffs on Januray 26th and 27th. (Hynek Beran/CTK via AP)
Presidential candidate Jiri Drahos addresses media after casting his vote during first round of Presidential elections in Prague, Czech Republic, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. The Czechs are electing a new president with eight candidates hoping to unseat the current controversy-courting leader. The 73-year-old Milos Zeman who is seeking a second five-year term is a favorite to win the election's first round vote on Friday and Saturday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Presidential candidate Michal Horacek casts his vote as his we wife Michaela and daughter Julie look on during the presidential election's first round vote in Roudnice nad Labem (50 kilometres/31 miles North of Prague), on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (Ondrej Hajek/CTK via AP)

PRAGUE — The Czechs are electing a new president, and eight candidates are hoping to unseat the incumbent.

President Milos Zeman, 73, is seeking another five-year term in the largely ceremonial post and is the favorite to win the election's first-round vote Friday and Saturday.

Two political newcomers, the former president of the Academy of Sciences, Jiri Drahos, and popular song writer Michal Horacek are considered his major challengers. Others with a chance to advance to the runoff are Mirek Topolanek, an outspoken leader who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, and Pavel Fischer, a former diplomat.

If no candidate achieves a majority, the top two will face each other in a runoff in two weeks.

Friday's vote was hit by a protest. After Zeman entered a polling station in Prague, he was approached by a female Femen activist stripped to the waist who shouted "Zeman, Putin's slut!" His guards intervened and led the shaken president away. Zeman returned several minutes later to vote and said he was honored to be heckled by a Femen activist.

Zeman was elected to the largely ceremonial post in 2013 during the country's first direct presidential vote, a victory that returned the former left-leaning prime minister to power.

In office, he's become known for strong anti-migrant rhetoric that won him support from the populist far-right. He has also divided the nation with his pro-Russia stance and his support for closer ties with China.

He was one of the few European leaders to endorse Donald Trump's bid for the White House. He has flown the European Union flag at Prague Castle but has used every opportunity to attack the 28-nation bloc.

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