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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid