Pehe: Zeman, Klaus stand equal chance of becoming president

Milos Zeman, Vaclav Klaus, Jaroslava Moserova, photo: CTK

The Czech parliament meets for a second time on Friday to try and choose a successor to President Vaclav Havel, in the wake of last week's inconclusive vote. Three candidates are standing in tomorrow's election - two former prime ministers - Social Democrat Milos Zeman and Civic Democrat Vaclav Klaus - and one senator - Jaroslava Moserova. But with the parties deeply divided, do any of them have any chance of becoming the next head of state? Rob Cameron spoke earlier to analyst Jiri Pehe, and he began by asking him whether this protracted election was having a damaging effect on the country's health.

Milos Zeman,  Vaclav Klaus,  Jaroslava Moserova,  photo: CTK
"I think that both the Czech Republic's image abroad and the management of the country have suffered to some degree. On the other hand, the election of the president is still within a democratic framework, and I would argue that as long as stays so, that's fine - we shouldn't be afraid it will lead to some major earthquakes. However, I think that there is a third factor, and that is what this protracted election is doing to the public. I think the Czech public has grown increasingly dissatisfied, and I think what the public is witnessing is really disgraceful."

Right - you were one of the few people to predict - accurately - that no-one would be elected in the first election last week. What about this one?

"I think the chances that no-one will be elected are about 50-50. It depends very much on who will make it to the second round of this election. If Mr Zeman and Mr Klaus face each other in the second round, then there's a high probability the election will end in a deadlock again and no-one will be elected, because they will cancel each other out. However if Mr Zeman or Mr Klaus faces Mrs Moserova in the second round, then the likelihood that the Social Democrats or the Civic Democrats respectively would support each other's candidate [rather than Mrs Moserova] is quite high, and one of them could be elected."

Looking at the distribution of seats in the two houses though, and bearing in mind the fact that the Communist Party - which has 44 deputies and senators - are much more inclined to support Mr Zeman, isn't it much more likely to be a case of Zeman or no-one?

"I would argue that if Mr Zeman is knocked out in the first round, the Communist Party will in fact support Mr Klaus. They will not do it directly, because it would be not politically acceptable to their voters, but they will do it by abstaining - therefore lowering the quorum necessary for the election of the president, and that may be enough for Mr Klaus. So I don't think Mr Klaus's chances are much lower than Mr Zeman's chances, very much will depend on who will make it through to the second round. And if that person is Mr Klaus, and Mr Zeman is knocked out in the first round, then Mr Klaus has an excellent chance of being elected."