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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Secret Service Head to be Questioned Over White House Intruder

Julia Pierson will be questioned about the latest break-in well as several other embarrassing incidents involving the agency 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid