Third round of voting in presidential election inconclusive

Jan Švejnar and Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

Who will be the country’s next president – incumbent Václav Klaus- challenger Jan Švejnar or someone altogether different? A two-day election marathon at Prague Castle failed to produce a winner. Ian Willoughby spent two days at the Castle watching the drama unfold close up. Ian - this has indisputably been the longest and most difficult presidential election in the country’s history – what happened?

Jan Švejnar and Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
“Well, as you said it was an incredible marathon. On Friday lawmakers were in session for eleven hours and the first ten of those hours were spent discussing procedure about how to vote. The issue was whether they should vote in a secret ballot, which has been a tradition, or make it a public vote by a show of hands which four of the five parties in Parliament were pushing for. In the end they did go for a public vote but only the last hour of yesterday’s long session was actually spent voting. And then on Saturday they announced the result of the second round, which was that no one had won outright but both Mr. Švejnar and Mr. Klaus had got through, and then there was a long series of recesses until 1.45pm when the third round of voting took place and once again there was no winner.”

So it seems that the method of voting had a big impact on the course of the election?

“It did have a big impact in that because they were voting publicly it was harder for deputies and senators to go against their party line. Yesterday Mr. Klaus got 142 votes which would have won him the election today but he failed to get them in the third vote. Three lawmakers were ill - one of them at least had a mental collapse -and were absent from the vote so that complicated matters. Basically everything came down to one vote and there were all kinds of accusations, pressure being put on people and accusations of lawmakers being pressurized. It seemed there was a lot of nastiness going on behind the scenes and a lot of accusations.”

Photo: CTK
It has been a dramatic 48 hours at Prague Castle and still no future president in sight - what happens now?

“Well, the next election is take place on Friday. The deadline for nominating new candidates is Tuesday night. Václav Klaus will of course stand again -he still has the best chance of being elected - Jan Švejnar will stand again and possibly someone else. Communist Party leaders have been talking about five mystery people one of whom they would put forward. So another election next weekend – and we’ll see how it goes.”