Voters in the Czech Republic took to the polls Friday to cast votes in the final round of the presidential election between populist former prime minister, Andrej Babis, against Petr Pavel, a pro-Western retired general. Photo by Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Czech voters took to the polls Friday in a run-off presidential election, the outcome of which is being seen as crucial to the future of the country's democracy.
The election pits the country's controversial populist former prime minister, Andrej Babis, against Petr Pavel, a pro-Western retired general, in a hotly contested battle for the leadership that has been marked by misinformation and death threats.
Earlier this week, Pavel was forced to refute his own death after he was targeted by a fake email campaign and his website was hacked, while an anonymous death threat forced Babis to abruptly halt all campaign appearances over fears for his personal safety.
Pavel, who is also a high-ranking former NATO official, is running on a platform of closer integration with the European Union and NATO. He is also a strong advocate of expanding military aid for Ukraine in its war with Russia.
He also backs joining the Eurozone and legalizing gay marriage.
Babis who has been called the ''Czech Donald Trump'', is promising to address the concerns of ordinary people amid rising inflation and energy prices. He has also called for a peace summit with Russia and has close ties with Hungary's authoritarian, anti-EU leader, Viktor Orban.
Babis allegedly once joked with Vladimir Putin that he should "liquidate" journalists, and said on a state visit to China that he was there to learn "how to stabilize society."
Polling stations close tomorrow, with the result expected to be announced in the afternoon.