One-third of voters still undecided in Czech presidential election

The race now sees Petr Pavel and Andrej Babiš virtually tied, with Danuše Nerudová trailing slightly. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 03.01.2023 12:43:00 (updated on 10.01.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

With less than two weeks until the first round of the Czech presidential elections, over one-third of people planning to cast their ballots don't know who they will vote for. The first round of the election will be held Jan. 13–14.

The race is also very close, with just two-tenths of a percent separating retired general Petr Pavel, at 28.71 percent, and former prime minister Andrej Babiš, at 28.51 percent. Danuše Nerudová trails them at 25.12 percent, according to a year-end survey by Median conducted for daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD). Six other candidates each had less than 5 percent.

"The overall conclusion is that there are three candidates whose positions are very balanced, and it is impossible to say who would be the winner. Petr Pavel and Andrej Babiš now have the highest preferences, the difference between them is at the level of a statistical error," Median agency director Přemysl Čech told MfD.

Support for Nerudová slipping

Over the past several months, Nerudová has seen her support slip slightly. She led the Median poll in mid-November at 28 percent and was in second place in mid-December at 27.5 percent.

Nerudová’s standing was likely hurt by a scandal at Mendel University, where she was a rector. An investigation into doctorates being awarded to foreign students after only a short study time is ongoing and covers the years when she was rector.

“One of the major reasons why people preferred her was that she has no scandal attached to her. And that could have changed," sociologist Jan Herzmann told MfD.

Babiš is caught up in a scandal about EU subsidies for the Čapí hnízdo resort and Pavel has had trouble addressing questions about his past in the communist era.

High turnout expected, but people still undecided

The Median survey also shows this year's presidential race could see a record turnout, but also has an unusually high number of undecided voters. About 36 percent of citizens said they will vote but have not yet definitively chosen a candidate, and might not make up their minds until they are at the polling stations.

Experts say that the candidates’ performance in upcoming televised debates will be crucial in reaching undecided voters, as they have helped to sway voter opinion in the past.

Several debates will take place this week and next. The public broadcaster Czech Television ČT will hold one on Sunday, Jan. 8, the news portal on Jan. 9, commercial station TV Nova will have two battles on Jan. 12, and Prima plans debates on Jan. 4 and 11.

Babiš could lose advantage in the second round

Median director Přemysl Čech divides people into four groups. There are those who won’t vote, which is about a quarter of voters, a group that supports candidates that have low levels of support, then there is a group of voters for Andrej Babiš, and voters for Nerudová and Pavel. Many of the latter are still deciding which of those two they will support.

Polling models show a likelihood that either Nerudová or Pavel will face Babiš in the second round featuring the two most popular candidates on Jan. 27 and 28. But the face-off could still be between Nerudová and Pavel if Babiš does poorly in the debates.

In the second round, according to projections, Babiš would lose to either Pavel or Nerudová. If the second round is between Pavel and Nerudová, the electoral model gives the advantage to Pavel.  

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