News / Europe

Former PM Wins Czech Presidency

Presidential candidate Milos Zeman reacts after the announcement of the preliminary results of the presidential elections in Prague, Czech Republic, January 26, 2013.
Presidential candidate Milos Zeman reacts after the announcement of the preliminary results of the presidential elections in Prague, Czech Republic, January 26, 2013.
Stefan Bos
Left-leaning former Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has won his country's first direct presidential elections with about 55 percent of the vote.  The international community was closely watching the voting as it will impact the Czech Republic's future relations with the European Union. 

Supporters celebrated upon learning that Zeman won the Czech Republic's first direct presidential poll since the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993. It came as a blow to his rival, Karel Schwarzenberg, the current Czech foreign minister, who at age 75 hoped to become the first prince-turned-president of a European Union nation.

The election defeat of the pipe-smoking prince followed a bitter campaign in which both men clashed over the Czechs' troubled history and about the European Union.

President-elect Zeman, a former member of the Communist Party, accused his aristocratic opponent of betraying the nation by challenging 'Benes Decrees,' laws which led to the expulsion of some 3 million ethnic Germans and Austrians from Czech lands after World War Two.

Named after Edvard Benes, the first post-war president of Czechoslovakia, it was an effort to cleanse the country of people regarded as bearing responsibility for the Czechs' wartime suffering.

Yet, that long-held view was openly criticized by Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg.

In a televised debate, Schwarzenberg said what Czechs "committed in 1945 would today be considered a grave violation of human rights and the Czechoslovak government, along with President Benes, would have found themselves in The Hague," a reference to Netherlands-based international war crimes tribunals.

Many voters apparently disagreed.  Schwarzenberg acknowledged Saturday that most of the people chose Mr. Zeman, with whom he also clashed about European Union  membership.

President-elect Zeman is more reluctant to further enlarge the 27-nation bloc than the prince, who backs eventual entry of all Balkan countries into the EU. Mr. Zeman has said he only supports Croatia's "and possibly Serbia's" EU membership. Additionally, Mr. Zeman suggested withdrawing the Czech Republic's envoy from Kosovo which he called "a terrorist regime financed by the drugs mafia."

Yet, Mr. Zeman tried to sound more conciliatory following his election victory.

Mr. Zeman thanked everybody who supported him and congratulated his rival with his "deserved second place” in the run-off race.  Milos Zeman stressed that he wanted "to be the voice of all people as president." Mr. Zeman, who is 68, replaces President Vaclav Klaus, the last Czech Republic head of state elected by parliament.  Mr. Klaus was known for his anti-EU rhetoric.

His popularity recently dropped after he granted amnesty to some 7,000 prisoners to celebrate the new year and the Czech Republic's 20th anniversary as an independent nation.

While largely a ceremonial role, Mr. Zeman's presidency is expected to wield political influence at a time when the Czech Republic faces political and economic difficulties. The Czech economy shrank by nearly 1 percent last year, due in part to its dependency on car exports to eurozone states, hit hard by a debt crisis.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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 Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid