Karel Schwarzenberg, a bow-tied 75- year-old prince whose estate includes castles and forests, is channeling the Sex Pistols in a bid to be Czech president. Schwarzenberg has emerged as the surprise challenger to ex- Premier Milos Zeman in the nation’s first direct election for president. Campaign images created by artist David Cerny, portraying the prince in a mohawk hairstyle fashioned after the U.K. punk band and screaming “Karel is Not Dead,” are appealing to voters generations younger than the candidate.
“He represents the better, modern side of our nation,” student Klara Dvorakova said late Jan. 14 after Schwarzenberg left Mlejn, a smoky pub in an historic mill near Prague Castle where he often grabs a beer alongside young supporters in T- shirts sporting his mohawked image. “He’s noble, elegant.”
His advance to a Jan. 25-26 run-off vote highlights a rift in the former Soviet satellite. A recession and corruption are fueling support for the political heirs of late President Vaclav Havel’s Communist-era jailers, who have endorsed Zeman. Schwarzenberg, a former Havel aide, wants to bolster U.S. and European Union ties after a decade under President Vaclav Klaus, a euro skeptic seen by critics as too warm with Russia.
Schwarzenberg represents a “continuation of Havel’s legacy, which contains much deeper values than just the battle between left and right,” Jiri Pehe, a former Havel adviser, said by phone. “This includes representing the Czech Republic abroad with dignity, attention to human rights, and much less desire, compared with Klaus, for dividing Czech society.”