In a resolution passed on Thursday the Czech Senate called on President Miloš Zeman to show greater restraint in his statements and actions so as not to divide society and harm the country’s image abroad. The president, whose outspoken views often clash with the government’s policy line, reminded the upper chamber that he had been elected by the people and would do as he sees fit.
The initiative to pass a resolution which would reprimand the president for his increasingly provocative statements on domestic and international affairs came from the Christian Democrats and the Mayors group and was supported by Senate chairman Milan Štěch, who recently noted that the Czech head of state appeared to be losing self-control and was damaging the country’s image abroad. The list of controversial comments made by the president is long and colourful – ranging from his criticism of EU sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea, the president’s negative stand to migrants which led him to share the stage with the leader of the extreme Anti-Islam block, and most recently his reference to the Kalashnikov as an undemocratic way to unseat a politician after being asked by a member of the public how one could get rid of the prime minister. Senator Jiří Šesták said the president should be more aware of his place and role in Czech politics:
“The president should be above the daily skirmishes of politics, he should not take political sides and in commenting on political and social problems he should remain unbiased and objective so as to have a uniting, not a divisive, influence on society.”
Many politicians now see the president as a loose canon on the Czech political scene and the prime minister himself has asked the head of state to exercise greater restraint in the interest of the country, but paradoxically, as the Czech head of state gathers steam, so does his popularity with the public.
In January his popularity rating reached a peak when, according to a Sanep poll 70 percent of respondents positively assessed his performance in office. A CVVM poll released on March 1st put the president’s trust rating at 59 percent, which is still ten percent higher than trust in the government and 28 percent higher than trust in the Senate.
The futility of the Senate’s attempt to reprimand the head of state was obvious not only from the low turnout for the vote -35 senators showed up out of 81 – but the narrow margin by which the resolution was passed. It was best voiced by Senator Josef Kubera of the Civic Democrats who said the resolution would be about as effective as if the Czech Senate decided the Earth was spinning too fast and asked for it to slow down.
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