A different kind of president

Whatever the outcome of today's vote, one thing is obvious: the Czech presidency will not be the same as it was under Vaclav Havel. Both candidates - Vaclav Klaus and Jan Sokol - have emphasised that they would be different heads of state than their predecessor. In exclusive interviews for Radio Prague, the two presidential hopefuls outlined their visions for the Czech presidency.

Although there are many distinct differences between the two presidential contenders, they are both saying one thing: if elected president, they will be a different head of state to Vaclav Havel. Mr Havel's fame as a dissident and writer, combined with the fact that he was the very first president of the Czech Republic, meant that his personality and the office of the presidency were often perceived as one and the same.

The next Czech president faces the challenge of consolidating the presidency as an institution, and also defining it with a personal style different to that of Vaclav Havel's. Mr Klaus was an outspoken critic of the Havel presidency, and he says that he would like to bring the office closer to the people:

"Well, he was a very special personality and it was a very special moment. I hope we return to a normal presidency which is not the result of a revolution or a total systemic change of a country. So in this respect the follower of Vaclav Havel will definitely be a normal president, whatever this adjective means. Again, I said down to earth - in this respect we have to put the president among normal people, not to keep him so untouchable somewhere in the beautiful Prague Castle. So in this respect one of my ambitions would definitely be to return the presidency more to the citizenry."

Jan Sokol agrees with his competitor Mr Klaus that the next head of state will be more "normal", and for Mr Sokol the second president of the Czech Republic will have the important - though less spectacular - role of consolidating institutions:

"Today it's a very different situation. Vaclav Havel became president in an almost revolutionary situation: he was a sort of comet on the skies, so this cannot be repeated. But on the other hand I think the role of the future Czech president is very different. We are not in a situation of revolution, of destroying the old and building new institutions and so on. It's now a question of firming those institutions. So I think the future Czech president has to do much more less spectacular work on making these institutions firm. That means the fight against corruption, making state institutions more transparent, more regularly functioning and so on. This is my first priority."