First day of voting in presidential elections inconclusive

Photo: CTK

It’s been a long day at Prague Castle. After hours of deadlock, Czech lawmakers finally started voting on who should be the country’s next president. The Czech Republic’s 200 deputies and 81 senators spent over ten hours trying to agree on how the elections should be conducted. After deciding that it was to be by public vote, and not secret ballot, at around 8pm on Friday evening, voting for the country’s next president got underway. Two rounds of voting on Friday night failed to produce a president, with neither candidate clinching a sufficient number of votes. The election will continue at 10am on Saturday. Ian Willoughby has been watching the drama unfold at Prague Castle all day. He told Radio Prague what it had been like:

Photo: CTK
“Well it has been an extremely long day, basically from 10 am to 8pm the parliamentarians here argued about procedure and the problem was a dispute over how to vote. This went on for ten hours but eventually they settled on a public vote which most of the parties were in favour of. The thing is that before they actually got to vote they decided to end at 9pm and to resume on Saturday at 10am so that led to a lot of drama. What happened was that the first round was held at 8pm, both of the candidates got through (that’s Václav Klaus and Jan Švejnar ) Václav Klaus through the Senate, Jan Švejnar through the Chamber of Deputies and then they held the second vote at 8.40 pm but before the result could be announced the bell struck nine o’clock and no result was announced –so we have to wait until tomorrow morning at 10 am to see what happens.”

So is it right to say that things really picked up a lot in the past couple of hours and the pace really changed?

“Yes, completely. I mean the whole day we were sitting around waiting and they had so many recesses and breaks…and it looked like there would be no vote at all because it seemed that they couldn’t reach agreement on procedure but at the end of the day there was great drama in the last hour –it all happened in sixty minutes. And even if there is no outcome – because it seems that nobody won the second round outright – there is relief that a vote was held. And there is a lot of suspense because nobody knows how things will go on Saturday.”

Can we expect a new president then by the end of the weekend?

“Possibly. On Saturday morning they will reconvene at 10am and start voting in the third round with both candidates still in the running. But it is not guaranteed that one of those men will be elected. The Communist Party could scupper the vote by abstaining or leaving the assembly hall –that’s a possibility – so all we know is that the third round will be held on Saturday but it may not be conclusive.”