News / Europe

Czechs Vote in First Direct Presidential Elections

A woman casts her ballot during the country's first-ever direct presidential election to replace the outgoing president Vaclav Klaus, in Prague January 11, 2013.
A woman casts her ballot during the country's first-ever direct presidential election to replace the outgoing president Vaclav Klaus, in Prague January 11, 2013.
Stefan Bos
Citizens in the Czech Republic are voting in the first direct presidential elections in their nation's 20-year history. Among the three favorite candidates is the man who wants to become Europe's first popularly elected Jewish head of state and one unusually colorful candidate.

Two former Czech prime ministers, both ex-Communists, are expected to finish atop the list of nine first-round candidates -- including one with a fully tattooed face.

This is the first time a Czech president will be elected by popular vote. In the past they were chosen by the country's parliament.

Milos Zeman talks to media after casting his vote in presidential elections at a polling station in Prague, Jan. 11, 2013.Milos Zeman talks to media after casting his vote in presidential elections at a polling station in Prague, Jan. 11, 2013.
x
Milos Zeman talks to media after casting his vote in presidential elections at a polling station in Prague, Jan. 11, 2013.
Milos Zeman talks to media after casting his vote in presidential elections at a polling station in Prague, Jan. 11, 2013.
Polls suggest outspoken leftist Milos Zeman is likely to come out ahead in the European Union nation of over 10 million people.

However Zeman, who is 68, is not expected to receive enough votes to clinch a first-round victory. He likely will face mild-mannered center-rightist Jan Fischer in a run-off vote on January 25 and January 26.

Fischer, whose father survived Auschwitz and other Nazi-death camps, could become Europe's first popularly-elected Jewish president.

Though his mother was Catholic, he says he feels he is part of the Jewish community due to his father's Holocaust experiences and a partly Jewish upbringing.

The largely ceremonial presidency would be the crown on a career for the ex-prime minister, who once ran the Czech Statistical Office and was vice president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Political commentators say the 62-year-old compensates for his lack of charisma simply by being "ordinary."

Candidate Jan Fischer speaks to the media after casting his vote in Prague, January 11, 2013.Candidate Jan Fischer speaks to the media after casting his vote in Prague, January 11, 2013.
x
Candidate Jan Fischer speaks to the media after casting his vote in Prague, January 11, 2013.
Candidate Jan Fischer speaks to the media after casting his vote in Prague, January 11, 2013.
Fischer made that clear at a televised presidential debate on the eve of the two-day presidential poll.

"Voters will make the right choice because there are many wise people in this land." he said. "Don't be poisoned by the politicians, but make your own choice."

Fischer said the elections are not about the personality of candidates "but about you and the future of the country."

There is one surprise in this race as polls put the colorful Vladimir Franz in third place. The 53-year-old opera composer and painter is tattooed from head to toe. His face is a warrior-like mix of blue, green and red.

He says his tattoos "are not a handicap, they are added value."

Candidate Vladimir Franz arrives to cast his vote for the presidential elections at a polling station in Prague, Jan. 11, 2013.Candidate Vladimir Franz arrives to cast his vote for the presidential elections at a polling station in Prague, Jan. 11, 2013.
x
Candidate Vladimir Franz arrives to cast his vote for the presidential elections at a polling station in Prague, Jan. 11, 2013.
Candidate Vladimir Franz arrives to cast his vote for the presidential elections at a polling station in Prague, Jan. 11, 2013.
Franz, who is a professor at Prague's school of performing arts, is not surprised about his popularity in the polls, despite a reported campaign budget of $26,508.

He says people are upset about politics because of widespread corruption.

"The political system is so enchanted with itself that it's lost the ability to self-reflect." he said.   He added that Czechs are "fed up with this [crap.]"

The artist reminds Czechs of the late Vaclav Havel, the former dissident and playwright who became the Czech Republic's first president after it broke away from what was Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993.

While Franz is not expected to receive the most votes, his support is seen as crucial to whoever wants to become president of a country faced with recession, austerity and corruption.

The new president would replace the euroskeptic Vaclav Klaus who was popular but has recently come under fire for his New Year's decision to release about 7,000 prisoners.

Some of those receiving amnesty have since returned to robbery and murder, prompting mayors of 600 municipalities to remove Mr. Klaus' photos from official buildings.

First official results of the Czech Republic's two-day presidential poll are expected late Saturday.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid