Czech president sparks protests with divisive address
After his re-election as president some six weeks ago, Miloš Zeman suggested he would be less abrasive in office in his second term. But it didn’t take long for him to break his word. In the second half of his inaugural speech he took aim at everyone from an influential businessman to the media.
The first part of the speech, in which Mr Zeman underlined successes in his first term, didn't upset anyone. It was the second half that raised the ire, at the very least, of the president’s political opponents, right-wing politicians from the Civic Democratic Party and TOP 09 as well the Christian Democrats and STAN. When the president unexpectedly suggested that journalists working for some Czech media outlets of businessman Zdeněk Bakala (in the Economia group) were not worthy of the public’s respect – and questioned the objectivity to public broadcaster Czech TV – it wasn’t long before some deputies started to walk out in protest.
The first was former Civic Democrat chairwoman Miroslava Němcová. Afterwards, she told Czech Radio why.
The head of STAN, Jan Farský, said he was saddened by the president’s speech, saying he had hoped it would be inclusive, that it would present a vision for the country moving forward, but that what he had heard instead was a settling of accounts. Jiří Dolejš, a deputy head of the Communist Party also expressed disappointment, although he gave the president points for part of his speech.
“There were positive moments such as when he spoke about meeting citizens or about economic diplomacy but I think that it was not the right occasion for settling past accounts with certain groups, even if they had merited it.”
One of those who has emerged as one the president’s most vocal supporters, the head of Freedom and Direct Democracy Tomio Okamura, suggested it was not the president who had caused a major scandal but those who had defied protocol by walking out.
“Unfortunately they embarrassed the Czech Republic internationally, which will have a negative impact on all ten million Czechs.”
The criticism has continued, including from the Václav Klaus Institute, founded by Mr Zeman’s predecessor who also served two terms in office.