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.
An exotic-looking opera composer and painter who was compared to ‘an exotic creature from Papua New Guinea’, is holding a surprise third position in opinion polls ahead of Czech Republic’s first-ever direct presidential election this week. It’s no surprise that Vladimir Franz, a 53-year-old professor at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts, received such a vivid description by a debate caller. He is hard to miss in a crowd, with his entire face covered in swirls of red, green and blue. Admitting to having no experience in either politics or economics, he still ran a successful campaign for the semi-ceremonial position of president of the Czech Republic.