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A researcher almost elected president

Jindrich Nosek / Wikimedia Commons Researcher Jirí Drahoš, who ran for President of the Czech RepublicJindrich Nosek / Wikimedia Commons

Physics and chemistry researcher Jiří Drahoš, 68, was very nearly elected president of the Czech Republic this January, narrowly missing out after winning 48% of the vote in the second round against social democrat Miloš Zeman, 73, sho was reelected with 52 percent of the vote. A newcomer to politics, Drahoš is a researcher at the Institute of Chemical Process Fundamentals in Prague and was president of the Czech Academy of Sciences from 2009 to 2017. He ran as an independent candidate and was supported by various center-right groups. With a more open attitude to the European Union, Drahoš’s campaign was strongly critical of Zeman, who is considered pro-Russian and anti-immigration. The researcher was targeted by fake news during the campaign, when pictures of him with German Chancellor Angela Merkel circulated on the internet accompanied by a statement claiming that they wished to flood the Czech Republic with immigrants, something Drahoš denies. “Drahoš knows Merkel, who is also a chemist and encouraged him to enter politics,” says chemical engineer Roberto Guardani, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Polytechnic School (Poli-USP). Guardani was supervised by Drahoš during his PhD in the 1980s and considers the Czech scientist a friend. Over the last 30 years, Drahoš has visited Brazil five times to give lectures at Poli-USP and to attend conferences.