PRAGUE, Czech Republic—President Milos Zeman’s decision last week to sign legislation that blocks Russia and China from involvement in the Czech nuclear industry came as a surprise given Zeman’s efforts to deepen ties with Moscow and Beijing. The move was likely a tactical retreat by the cunning head of state, who expects upcoming parliamentary elections on Oct. 8 and 9 to hand him significant influence over the next government.
Although polls suggest the country is split down the middle, with support divided equally between illiberal populist and pro-democratic forces, Zeman has already said he plans to use the constitutional power of his office to reappoint populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
According the last polls allowed ahead of the vote, published Monday, Babis’ ANO party leads the field with around 25 percent support. However, with the party’s populist allies struggling to meet the 5 percent threshold required to enter Parliament, the billionaire tycoon has little chance of putting together a majority coalition.