Zeman’s health back in news despite assurances from staff

Miloš Zeman

Alongside elections taking place this weekend, one of the biggest news stories in the Czech Republic at present is the health state of President Miloš Zeman. However, his officials insist that the 77-year-old is not seriously ill and will appear in public on Friday.

President Miloš Zeman spent eight days at Prague’s Central Military Hospital last month after suffering from what his office described as dehydration and exhaustion.

According to Mr. Zeman’s staff, he is currently working.

He will be seen by the nation on Friday, when he visits an as yet undisclosed polling station to cast his ballot in general elections, and is already preparing for post-election talks with party leaders, they say.

In addition information has been released about plans for Czech Independence Day on October 28, when the president is due to continue the tradition of handing out state honours.

But despite these assurances, two weeks after his release from hospital the subject of his state of health has been dominating the news once again.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who critics say is closely allied with Mr. Zeman, played down such talk.

“It’s not right that there is constant speculation as to whether the president can fulfill his official role. He is preparing for October 28. And what’s important – I have been told that he’s going to vote.”

Andrej Babiš | Photo: Office of Czech Government

There were reports earlier in the week that Mr. Zeman – who has neuropathy of the feet and is wheel-chair bound – had been visited by the head of the Central Military Hospital, though his office later said this had been planned.

The president’s chancellor said speculation that Mr. Zeman was seriously ill was nonsense and insisted he was not in a critical condition.

However, his predecessor as head of state, Václav Klaus, fanned the flames further with an interview in which he said that Mr. Zeman was suffering from liver problems.

Mr. Klaus linked this condition to the lifestyle of the president, who is known as a smoker and in the past admitted to drinking six glasses of wine and three shots of slivovice a day.

Radiožurnál and Deník N reported that the Office of the President had concealed the true reason for his hospitalisation (his longest to date) last month.

The news outlets quoted sources as saying he was actually suffering from ascites, or fluid in the abdominal cavity, which caused him liver problems.

Deník N also said that the president had rejected his doctor’s advice to return to hospital.

Meanwhile the president’s staff said that Mr. Zeman was planning to take legal action against a former minister, Džamila Stehlíková, who said publicly that he was suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis.

For his part the speaker of the Senate, Miloš Vystrčil, said that in view of the elections – in connection with which he has a number of formal duties – it would be appropriate for the president to make a clear statement about his state of health.