Friday, January 11, 2013

1st Czech Presidential Election

Today, Czechs go to the polls to elect a new president.  This is the first time ever.  Previously, the president was chosen by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate because it was thought that the popularly elected president might weaken a government led by the prime minister.  The Czech President serves for a 5-year term.  The current president is Václav Klaus and he has to step down because he is finishing his second term and a third term is not permitted.

Czech President's Flag
Twenty people tried to get on the ballot but in order to become an official candidate a person needs to get 50,000 signatures or be nominate by 20 deputies or 10 senators.  Nine people qualified.  Czechs get two days to vote, this Friday and Saturday, but if no one gets more than 50% of the vote then there will be a run-off election on January 25-26 between the top two finishers.  Here are the candidates...

Jana Bobošíková is the leader of the Sovereignty party.  She used to be a journalist for Czech TV and was a member of the European parliament.  She is a Euro-skeptic and wants to restore border controls.

Jiří Dienstbier Jr., was born in the USA and holds dual citizenship.  His father was a well-known dissident.  He was a lawyer and is a senator.  He is the Deputy Chairman of the ČSSD, the Czech Social Democratic Party.  He is the youngest of all of the candidates.

Jan Fischer is an independent candidate and one of the favorites.  He was president of the Czech Statistical Office and was the Czech Prime Minister, from May 2009 to June 2010, where he led a caretaker government.  He is pretty much a moderate but is often criticized for being a member of the communist party from 1980 to 1989.  If elected, he would be the world's first popularly-elected Jewish president outside of Israel.

Táňa Fischerová is an independent candidate and a former dissident.  She is an actress, writer, television host and a civic activist.  She was a member of parliament from 2002 to 2006.  

Vladimír Franz graduated from law school but is a painter and opera composer.  He is a professor of dramatic arts in Prague and wants to bring education, culture and tolerance to politics.  He is an independent candidate and is very popular, especially with the youth.  The 53-year old is known for his extensive tattoos which cover 90% of his body, including his face.  His nickname is "Avatar" because in photos he often comes out dark blue.

Zuzana Roithová was a physician and represents the KDU-ČSL, the Christian and Democratic Union - Czechoslovak People's Party.  She was once the Minister of Health and is a former senator.  Currently she is a member of the European Parliament.

Karel Schwarzenberg is the leader of the TOP 09 party and is currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  He has served in the Chamber of Deputies and as a senator.  He is a prince.  I don't mean that he is a swell chap, I mean that he is a royal prince.  His full name is Karl Johannes Nepomuk Josef Borbert Friedrich Antonius Wratislaw Mena Fürst zu Schwarzenberg.  After the communists took over in 1948, his family fled the country.  He grew up in Austria but has dual citizenship with CZ and Switzerland.  He returned to Prague in 1990 after the Velvet Revolution.  He is extremely popular and always sports a bow tie.  He is the oldest candidate and, at 75, some people wonder, if elected, how long he would actually be able to serve as President.  He has been known to sleep during parliamentary sessions.  

Přemysl Sobotka was a physician before becoming a politician.  He is the candidate for ODS, the Civic Democratic Party.  ODS was founded by the outgoing president, Václav Klaus, and is the largest conservative political party in the country.

Miloš Zeman is among those with the most experience.  The hard drinking, chain smoking economist was the Prime Minister from 1998 to 2002 and led the Social Democratic Party.  He was the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies from 1996 to 1998.  In October 2209, he founded Zemanovci, the Party of Civic Rights.  He is best known for his arrogance and his belligerent rhetoric with political opponents and journalists.

By law, the candidates can spend up to 40 million Kč (~$2.08M) during the first round of elections.  In the event of a run-off, the two top candidates may spend up to 10 million Kč during round two.  Here's a quick video I found out on YouTube about the upcoming elections.