Václav Klaus promises “conservative” use of presidential power in second term

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

President Václav Klaus was inaugurated for a second five-year term at Prague Castle on Friday morning, in a ceremony that included the national anthem and a 21-gun salute. Mr Klaus will serve in the largely symbolic post until 2013, and observers expect little change in the style or the substance of his presidency.

Václav Havel and Livia Klausová,  photo: CTK
There was more than a touch of pomp and ceremony on Friday morning as ranks of MPs, senators, foreign diplomats and church leaders stood to attention for Václav Klaus’s entrance to Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall. Accompanied by a fanfare of trumpets, he walked up the aisle to take the oath of office, watched by his predecessor Václav Havel standing in the front row.

It’s an oath that has changed little over the years – the president places his hand on the Czech constitution and pledges allegiance to the Czech Republic. He promises to uphold its constitution and laws, and to carry out the duties of office in the interests of all its citizens and to best of his conscience.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
With those words Václav Klaus began a second five-year term office as president of the Czech Republic. He signed the oath with a platinum pen especially donated for the ceremony. The Czech national anthem played, accompanied by a 21-gun salute on Petřín Hill. He then addressed the gathered dignitaries – and the public watching at home on television – telling them he would exercise his powers cautiously and conservatively. He spoke of some of the challenges that lay ahead, including the Czech presidency of the European Union, which begins on January 1st, 2009:

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
“This year will be one of preparation for our presidency of the European Union, which for us will be an important test but at the same time also an opportunity. We have to meet our own expectations in the struggle to make the European Union a more democratic institution of European states and their citizens, rather than an organisation of politicians and their bureaucrats.”

Václav Klaus and Miloslav Vlk,  photo: CTK
There followed more pomp and ceremony in the inner courtyard of Prague Castle, as the president reviewed the troops and the national anthem played once again. After greeting well-wishers, he attended a special mass at St Vitus Cathedral, President Klaus bowing in front of the skull of Saint Václav, the 10th century Czech patron saint.

So Václav Klaus will be president of the Czech lands until March 7th, 2013, and judging by his public statements his second presidency will differ little from his first. On one hand he will continue to be a force for stability and continuity in Czech society, on the other he is unlikely to refrain from making the bold claims - on global warming, on NGOs, and so many other issues - that so infuriate his opponents. Perhaps one exception will be the EU – the Czech presidency is fast approaching, and while Mr Klaus remains unlikely to hoist the EU flag above Prague Castle, the rhetoric might be toned down…at least a bit.