Political analyst: Treason charges against Klaus should have been filed much earlier

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

The Czech Senate voted on Monday afternoon to file charges of treason against the outgoing president Václav Klaus. Heads of all of the ruling coalition parties have expressed disapproval of the move, with the Prime Minister insinuating that it was a vindictive move from the opposition-controlled senate. RP asked political analyst Jiří Pehe about what will be the fallout from the senate's decision.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
“I think that the political fallout can be seen on two levels. One of them is symbolic – it’s a message not only to Václav Klaus, but also to any future president, that the president needs to abide by the constitution and if he doesn’t or if he thinks he can stretch the constitution to the limits then he may be accused of treason.

“And I think the second fallout will be simply a political conflict, typical for the Czech Republic. One side of the political spectrum – specifically the right – will argue that the senate has gone too far and is just trying to settle political accounts with Mr. Klaus. While, the other side will be defending its steps by saying that the president, just as anyone else, has to follow the constitution.”

And if this is settling of old scores between the Social Democrats and President Klaus, as Prime Minister Nečas has suggested, why has this decision come this late, only a few days before President Klaus leaves office?

Jiří Pehe,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
“I think that the decision is unfortunate in one respect, and that is its timing. I personally think that it should have come much earlier, simply because, at least in my view, the most substantial part of the charges against Václav Klaus is his refusal to abide by the vote of both chambers of parliament when he was supposed to ratify the Lisbon treaty; and, above all, ignoring the decision of the highest administrative court when he was supposed to name new judges. These issues should have been taken to the constitutional court then. Unfortunately, now, it looks as if the people in the Senate who do not like Mr Klaus are actually trying to settle accounts with the president.”

What does this mean for President Klaus, will this situation have an effect on his legacy?

“I think it has already affected his legacy, because there is no other president who has been accused of treason. And even if the constitutional court doesn’t actually impeach the president or doesn’t sentence him, he will remain the first president who got himself in this kind of a situation and that will certainly influence his legacy.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
“Mr Klaus often speaks about the fact that he wants to be heard after his presidency is over. He wants to influence the debate here, and he wants to go abroad, particularly to the United States. And [the treason charges] may affect his reputation, because many organizations may not be willing to give the floor to a politician who was impeached, so I think it will certain affect his future and he is certainly not happy about it.

“On the other hand, we know Mr Klaus, and he is a fighter and it is quite possible he will use this [situation] to strengthen his position in domestic politics. He now has a chance again, just like after the so-called Sarajevo assassination in 1997 to portray himself as a victim of conspiracy.”