Presidential candidates step forward as Vaclav Havel's term draws to an end

President Vaclav Havel's term in office is coming to an end next month and the election of his successor is drawing ever nearer. At this stage it's extremely hard to predict who will replace Mr Havel. We take a look at the official candidates put forward by the various parties in parliament.

Valcav Klaus, photo: CTKValcav Klaus, photo: CTK The first candidate to be nominated was former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, from the opposition Civic Democrats. Last weekend Mr. Klaus stepped down as leader of the right of center party, which he founded and led for over 10 years. Mr. Klaus resigned his post after his party was defeated for the second time in elections this past summer. It was the government of Vaclav Klaus though which carried out most of the transformation to a market economy in the early 1990's.

Jaroslav Bures, photo: CTKJaroslav Bures, photo: CTK The governing left of center Social Democrats have nominated former justice minister Jaroslav Bures as their candidate for president. The decision to nominate Mr. Bures over former prime minister Milos Zeman caused a major rift in the Social Democrats. Mr. Zeman was not chosen as the party's candidate despite the fact that he won a referendum held by his own party. Many people within the Social Democrats, including current Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, have reservations about Mr. Zeman's candidacy. Mr. Zeman has stated that he would only run in a second election, if no other candidate is elected at the first attempt.

Miroslav KrizeneckyMiroslav Krizenecky The Communists have named Miroslav Krizenecky as their candidate for president. Mr. Krizenecky, a former military prosecutor has no chance whatsoever in the presidential election as he can only count on the support of the 41 communists deputies and three communists senators.

And finally, last weekend, one of the junior partners in the ruling coalition, the Christian Democrats, nominated Senate Chairman Petr Pithart as their candidate for the presidential office. Mr. Pithart also has the support of the other junior coalition partner, the Freedom Union. Here is what Mr. Pithart had to say after he was chosen as his party's candidate for president:

Petr Pithart, photo: CTKPetr Pithart, photo: CTK "I don't consider myself to be an outsider, I have broad experience. From a person on the verge of society I became a Prime Minister. Then for four and a half years I was out of politics completely, which was the most valuable experience after November 1989. Then I was elected as a Senator and three times as the Senate chairman. I have a good knowledge about both the executive and legislative powers. I am absolutely convinced that I can see the situation in the country through the eyes of an ordinary citizen, because I consider myself to be one of them, also due to the big fall I experienced in the past."

Leader of the Christian Democrats and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda also commented on Mr. Pithart's candidacy:

"We believe that Petr Pithart has a good chance of getting elected. That's why we want to work together with the other political parties, parliamentary factions both in the lower house and the senate. Other alternatives are not very good. I think that is the vote is undecided it would be good if chairmen of all political parties get together and chose someone who is totally unknown."

At least ten deputies or ten senators are needed to nominate a presidential candidate. The bi-cameral election commission will decide whether the election should be carried out through an open or by a secret ballot. It is expected that like the previous elections in the 1990s, the January vote will be carried out by a secret ballot.