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 Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid