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Pro-European Union academic Jiri Drahos is trying to unseat anti-immigration political veteran Milos Zeman, who has sought closer relations with Russian Federation and China, in a tight run-off in the Czech presidential election that started yesterday. The incumbent Milos Zeman is facing challenger Jiri Drahos, the former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Zeman, a former left-leaning prime minister, became president in 2013 after defeating former conservative foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

Zeman backed Donald Trump for the USA presidency before Trump's election in 2016 a rare position among leaders in Europe. He calls himself a federalist and supports membership of the European Union while also favouring holding an in-or-out referendum, like the one that led to Britain's impending exit.

The latest projections from bookies predict a dead heat between the Czech presidential candidates with the bookies slightly favouriting pro-Russian political veteran Milos Zeman, 73, to win. He ran unaffiliated with a political party.

The second round of the Czech Republic's Presidential Election is taking place on the 26 and 27 January.

A poll by the Kantar TNS and Median agencies showed Zeman scoring 45.5 percent of the vote against 45 percent for Drahos.

The government led by Babis resigned Wednesday after failing to win a confidence vote.

The constitution allows the president to name the prime minister and government, central bank board members, judges and university professors, and to sign bills passed by parliament into laws. His views on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as Europe's migrant crisis, diverge sharply from the European mainstream.

"It is clear that Jiri Drahos is unequivocally pro-EU and an euro-Atlantic candidate".

"It's an excellent result", Freedom and Direct Democracy chairman Tomio Okamura said of Zeman's re-election.

Known for his pro-Chinese and anti-Muslim stance, the populist Zeman, who is also a fan of US President Donald Trump, took pole position in a field of nine candidates in the January 12-13 first round vote, garnering 38.56 percent of the vote.

Both Zeman and Drahoš have rejected the EU's refugee quotas, but unlike Zeman, Drahoš has said his country should differentiate between economic migrants and war refugees and follow the bloc's asylum procedures.

Prague voter Lubos Horcic told AFP he was backing Drahos because "he will work to reconcile society and not divide it like Comrade Zeman", adding that Drahos was "moving towards Europe and the West and not towards the East".

Zeman is the Czech Republic's third president, after Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus, since the country and Slovakia were created from Czechoslovakia in 1993.