The first round of the Czech presidential election, which took place over the weekend, can be seen as a reflection of the tolerant and slightly tongue-in-cheek Czech temperament. In few other countries would serious contestants for the presidency include a face-tattooed composer, a bow-tie-wearing prince, and a candidate who would become the first Jewish president in the European Union. This weekend’s polls brought an unexpected twist with the success of Karel Schwarzenberg, the current foreign minister and scion of an old Bohemian family. “The Prince,” as he is often called even though aristocratic titles have been officially banned since the inception of Czechoslovakia in 1918, spent a large part of his life outside of the Czech Republic and speaks a delightfully old-fashioned version of Czech. As chairman of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Mr. Schwarzenberg was active in helping the dissident movement in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. He joined Václav Havel as his chief of staff in 1990.
But in the weeks preceding the first-round vote, it appeared that the 75-year-old 12th Prince of Schwarzenberg had seen better days. Erratic, occasionally dozing off in public and politically allied with the controversial finance minister Miroslav Kalousek, Mr. Schwarzenberg seemed to lack the appeal that could have won him the presidency just a few years ago. He was expected to come in third, leaving the run-off vote, which takes place next week, as a tight race between two former prime ministers: the buoyant and chain-smoking Milos Zeman and Jan Fischer, a statistician and the son of a Holocaust survivor.
It didn’t turn out that way. Vladimir Franz, the tattooed musician and painter who made the campaign an object of international fascination, came in fifth and therefore will not stand in the two-candidate run-off. But the real surprise was that Mr. Schwarzenberg, and not Mr. Fischer, came in second.