PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech President Milos Zeman officially launched his 2018 re-election bid on Friday, saying he had decided to run due to his strong public support and because he wanted to offer continuity as head of state.
The outspoken leader, who has pushed for better ties with Russia and China and backed Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential race last year, vowed to stay out of any debates or heavy campaigning.
Zeman's first term has been marked by battles with a Social Democrat-led government, sniping at reporters, warnings about Muslim immigration to Europe and efforts to improve relations with powers to the east.
Speaking at a televised news conference, the 72-year-old said that every media attack on him pushed him to stand even more. He even took a question in Russian, repeating his opposition to European Union sanctions against Moscow.
Zeman had told about 1,000 of his supporters on Thursday evening that he would seek a second term - news that was widely leaked - before making his decision public on Friday.
While governments run domestic and foreign policy, the president can hold leverage over the EU country's cabinets, as well as appoint central bankers and nominate ambassadors and constitutional court judges.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Writing by Jason Hovet and Ed Osmond)