Mixed expectations for Czech president’s second term

Czech president Miloš Zeman has taken the oath that will launch his second and last term as head of state. While Zeman has suggested he might be more conciliatory on the political home straight, his critics say he’s likely to be just as divisive as in the past.

Miloš Zeman, photo: CTKMiloš Zeman, photo: CTK The 73-year-old veteran politician has largely been out of the spotlight since his narrow win against second round presidential challenger Jiří Drahoš almost six weeks ago. But the presidential oath taken before a joint session of both house of the Czech parliament in the magnificent Vladislav hall at Prague Castle – used for events for more than 500 years - puts Zeman back there again.

After winning re-election Zeman suggested he might be more diplomatic and conciliatory than during his first presidential mandate, when he was often described as a divisive figure whose actions were at the limits or even beyond his constitutional powers.

Vladimíra Dvořáková is a Prague-based political analyst. She doubts whether Zeman-2 will be less interventionist and controversial in the future:

ʺI think that there will be attempts to strengthen the personal power of Mr. Zeman and there could be even less transparency dealing with the people collaborating with him. This, I think, is the main problem of his politics.

Vladimíra Dvořáková, photo: Jana PřinosilováVladimíra Dvořáková, photo: Jana Přinosilová ʺYou can agree or disagree with his politics, but the fact that we do not know something about his advisors, Chinese advisor, or his Chancellor - who does not have clearance to get access to secret information - these are things that I would say are dangerous. I do not suppose that it will be better.ʺ

And with the Czech Republic still waiting for a stable government four months after elections in October confirmed controversial Andrej Babiš and his ANO party as the clear winner but short of a majority, the head of state is bound to be an active player at the heart of the Czech political scene for weeks to come.

Marian Keremidský is one of the deputy chairmen of the political party created by Miloš Zeman, the Party of Citizens’ Rights (SPO). He expects the president to follow much the same course, including many trips to the regions and contact with citizens. That’s one factor credited with winning him the last election. But Keremidský suggests the president might perhaps be a little bit less forceful.

Whatever the next five years hold, he says president Zeman has already written himself in the history and the record books for his electoral success in getting and staying in power:

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK ʺCertainly he will be the first to have been elected in the first direct presidential elections. In history, he will always be connected with that. When the direct elections took place, the president won all four rounds in which he took part. He will go down firmly in history on account of that.ʺ

His party had encouraged supporters to come to one of the Prague Castle courtyards on inauguration day to show their appreciation of the president. But protests are also expected and some Czech lawmakers who disagree with the president’s policies say they will be wearing mourning costume at the official celebrations.