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.
Czech Republic: Ex-prime minister, foreign minister advance to presidential runoff | The Washington Post
A former leftist prime minister and the Czech Republic’s conservative foreign minister will face each other in a presidential runoff later this month after finishing Saturday as the top two candidates in the ballot’s first round. Ex-Premier Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will compete in the second round of voting for the largely ceremonial post on Jan. 25-26. Czechs are electing the country’s president in a direct popular vote for the first time, to replace euroskeptic President Vaclav Klaus, whose second and final term ends March 7. Since Czechoslovakia officially split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993, the republic has had two presidents elected by Parliament: Vaclav Havel and Klaus. But bickering during those votes led the legislature to give that decision to the general public.
Czechs vote Friday and Saturday in their country’s first direct presidential election, with recession, austerity and graft weighing heavily on the nation as it turns the page on a decade under ardent eurosceptic Vaclav Klaus. Two ex-prime ministers, both former Communists, are tipped to finish atop a list of nine first-round candidates — including one with a fully tattooed face — and enter a second round slated for January 25-26. Although polls suggest outspoken leftist Milos Zeman is the strongest candidate to take the presidency of the European Union state of 10.5 million people, he is unlikely to score the simple majority needed to clinch a first-round victory, and will likely face mild-mannered centre-rightist Jan Fischer in the second round.
The Czech Constitutional Court ruled that the country’s first direct presidential elections may take place next week after reviewing a complaint filed by a candidate excluded from the vote. The court, based in Brno, the Czech Republic’s second- largest city, said today that the first round of elections may be held Jan. 11-12 as planned, spokeswoman Jana Pelcova said by phone today. The court earlier reviewed a complaint from Tomio Okamura, who was excluded from the vote.
For the first time since the Velvet Revolution, citizens in the Czech Republic will have the opportunity to vote directly for their head of state in two weeks. Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman is in the pole position. His tough-talking style appeals to Czechs who are tired of back room deals and a scandal-plagued leadership. Miloš Zeman has set up his campaign headquarters close to his ultimate goal: His headquarters are in an historic building in the old town, close to Prague Castle, which also serves as the Czech Republic’s presidential palace. The candidate lights one cigarette after another, now and then pouring himself a bit more Bohemian white wine from a large carafe. As the smoke wafts around him, Zeman declares, “I want to be president.”
Czechs will hold their first presidential election on January 11 and 12 to replace outgoing euroskeptic leader Vaclav Klaus, the speaker of the upper house of parliament said on Monday. Up to now, the country’s parliament has chosen the president. But the assembly agreed to hand that power over to the electorate amid calls for more open democracy, fuelled by a growing public perception of cronyism and corruption in the country’s political parties.