Former prime minister Milos Zeman won the first direct Czech presidential election in January 2013, beating conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg by a margin of 55% to 45%.
Unlike his predecessor, the notoriously euro-sceptic Vaclav Klaus, Mr Zeman describes himself as a euro-federalist and is an advocate of closer European integration, though he believes that the Czech Republic should take its time over joining the euro.
Like Mr Klaus, Mr Zeman thrives on confrontation and is keen to exercise his presidential powers to the full, even if this means entering into conflict with the Czech government.
His appointment of a close ally, Jiri Rusnok, as prime minister following the resignation of Petr Necas in June 2013 met with the fierce opposition of the main political parties, who accused him of staging a power-grab.
Mr Zeman's critics said that the move undermined democracy and accused him of trying to introduce a semi-presidential system, which one outgoing minister from the Necas government described as "Putinesque".
Mr Zeman effectively retired from politics in 2003, after failing to beat Mr Klaus in the election to succeed Vaclav Havel as president. Even his own Social Democratic party split over whether to back him.
Political analysts attribute his spectacular comeback to his harnessing of discontent among older and poorer voters with the Necas government's handling of the economic downturn.
In his younger days, he was frequently dismissed from various posts because of his criticism of the Communist system's economic failings, and played a prominent part in the Civic Forum movement that helped oust the pro-Soviet government in 1989.
He rose to be Social Democratic prime minister in 1998-2002, but quit the party after his presidential election humiliation the following year. He now leads the small social-democratic Party of Civic Rights, which does not have any seats in parliament.
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