Czech Republic: A Socialist New President

Photo : Miloslav Hamrík;. Miloš Zeman during a presidential election debate organized by Czech Radio.

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Milos Zeman, the new presient of the Czech
Republic, was choosen in the first direct presidential elections in
the Czech Republic, formerly president was elected by Parliament and
Senate. Zeman was Prime Minister in the years 1998-2002 in the Social
Democratic cabinet. After voluntary retirement in 2002 Zeman left his
Social Democratid party and with his own new political party “Friends
of Milos Zeman” attempted several times for new comeback. This
endeavor succeeded now in the presidential election. Zeman beat his
contracandidate Mr. Karel Schwarzenberg with a margin of 10 % of
votes.

Media darling

In the modern history of the Czech Republic it
happened for the first time that the Czech media opted to side with
one of the candidates. Karel Schwarzenberg had the support of most
major print dailies. In addition, the vast majority of artists or
celebrities voiced support to Schwarzenberg. There appeared many
statements or videos of famous Czechs, which declared sympathy for
Schwarzenberg a few weeks before the election. This strong campaign
had surprisingly opposite effects: on the contrary, some voters were
discouraged so they voted Milos Zeman despite the media pressure.

Typical” Czech

The media paid attention to problematic relation
of Karel Schwarzenberg to Czech history. He was faulted of unchecked
collaboration of his father with the Nazis, and there was also
speculations that his father in law was an active Nazi. All these
speculations were questionable, there is still no single conclusion,
but for many people these outstanding issues were the reason for not
to vote Mr. Schwarzenberg. Moreover, Schwarzenberg’s wife countess
Therese lives in Austria and she can’t speak Czech. In contrast,
Zeman is a typical Czech born in Prague and he is capable to behave
as a president of masses. Zeman’s wife is percieved as “ordinary
woman in household”. In addition, the celebrities supporting
Schwarzenberg were from higher social classes.

Eurosceptic Klaus retired

Zeman will replace the current president Vaclav
Klaus, well known right-wing and Eurosceptic politician. Long
speculations about Klaus’ new political engagement show that he could
run for the European Parliament. In fact – Klaus has a big chance
to became an important representative of eurosceptical fraction.

Right wing or left wing

Zeman claims that he is the archetypal Social
Democrat, but his opponents says that he is not a typical left-wing
candidate – Zeman’s opinion sounds like from conservative
politician. Vaclav Klaus suprisingly supported Milos Zeman, his
ideological competitor, so it shows Zeman’s weak leftism. Zeman’s
contracandidate – Karel Schwarzenberg – is officially a
conservative politician with noble origin and foreign minister in the
current right-wing government as well. Some right-wing voters did not
consider Schwarzenberg to be an authentic conservative politics,
because Schwarzenberg cooperated in the past with the Czech
ecological Green Party. The roles were also mixed, Zeman was called
as “conservative leftist” and Schwarzenberg as “hiden lefty
with conservative makeup”.

Euroscepticalism

The EU was an important theme in election.
Eurosceptic voters blamed Schwarzenberg uncritical attitude towards
EU. Zeman is indeed a fan of wider European integration, but he has
very critical attitude to a number of problematical European
regulation. Because of these facts, of course including strong
support from leftist voters, Zeman won the election with nearly 10%
excess.

Inspiration in Scandinavia

The Czech Republic is not a presidential republic,
so the president does not have dominant power. Because of direct
election presidential mandate is now quite strong and Zeman wants to
interfere more to political or economical development. Zeman is
inspired by the Scandinavian social model for many years, he often
and expressly admires Scandinavia. “I do not think that we have to
come up with original ‘Czech solution’. I am convinced that the
Scandinavian model has been an inspiration for the Czech Republic,”
described Milos Zeman his vision in “election fight”. Now, Czech
Republic have problem mainly with eurocrisis, so on building
relationshop with Scandinavia is not enough time. Last official
contact between Czech Republic and Norway was on the occasion of the
state funeral of President Vaclav Havel, it was attended by Mr. Dag
Terje Andersen. For the last time, Milos Zeman visited Norway
officialy in March 2000 as Prime Minister. Therefore we can expect
that he will cultivate contacts with the Nordic countries.

Author: Vladimir Stipek

17th
January 2013, in Prague, for The Nordic Page

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