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Czech Republic - Presidential Election

Presidential election in Czechia 15th January 2003

Presidential election in Czechia 15th January 2003

15/01/2003 - Results

The Czech Parliament, that convened in its entirety (200 members of the Chamber of Representatives and the 81 members of Senate) in the Spanish Hall of the Castle of Prague, built under Emperor Rodolph II at the beginning of the 17th century, held the three rounds of the Presidential election on Wednesday 15th January, but did not manage to appoint the new President of Czechia.

The outgoing President Vaclav Havel opened the ceremony with a brief speech in which he expressed his desire not to leave public life completely. "As a citizen who has never known how to hold his tongue when it came to fundamental issues of public life, I do not want and could not leave the public arena completely. But for some very good reasons I have told myself to step down for some time at least," he declared. The four candidates running for the presidential position then each expressed how they thought the presidential function should be undertaken.

The four candidates standing in the first round were:

Vaclav Klaus, Civic Democrat Party candidate (ODS) of which he has been the leader since its creation in 1991, the first Czech Finance Minister after the fall of the communist regime in December 1989 and former Prime Minister of Czechia from 1993 to 1997

Petr Pithart, the candidate presented by the Christian Democrat Union- Czech People's Party (KDU-CSL), Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia between 1990-1992 and present President of the Senate;

Jaroslav Bures, the Social Democrat Party candidate (CSSD), former Minister of Justice ;

Miroslav Krizenecky, candidate for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) former military prosecutor and at present lawyer.

During the first round of the election none of the candidates obtained an absolute majority amongst the two Chambers of Parliament necessary to win (ie at least 102 MP's and at least 41 of the 81 senators). The candidate who won the greater number of votes in the Chamber of Representatives, Vaclav Klaus (Civic Democrat Party) and the one who won the greatest number in the Senate, Petr Pithart (Christian Democrat Union - Czech People's Party), were therefore allowed to stand in the second round that took place a few hours later.

The first round established the expected defeat of Miroslav Krizenecky, candidate of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), and that of Jaroslav Bures. The Social Democrat Party candidate did not manage to rally 46 votes to his name, ie hardly more than half of the party's members. He was criticised for belonging to the former Communist Party of Czechoslovakia between 1986-1989, for approving the Soviet invasion in 1968 and his false declarations about the help he was supposed to have given to the dissidents of Charter 77. The candidate had denied all of these accusations but had recognised (after the fact) that he had been a member of the former Communist party out of professional necessity. This result illustrates the defeat of the CSSD's strategy that did not succeed in establishing a candidate around whom the government coalition partners could rally. Jaroslav Bures had been appointed by the party's management at the end of November after consultation with its militants.

Hence the second round witnessed the duel between Vaclav Klaus (ODS) and Peter Pithart (KDU-CSL). Since neither of them had won an absolute majority of the representatives' and senators' votes, a third round was necessary.

In order to be elected in the third round a candidate must unite the majority of votes of both the representatives and senators present, ie 141 if there is 100% participation. Vaclav Klaus came out in the lead winning 113 votes, Petr Pithart for his part won 84 votes. In spite of his success, the Civic Democrat Party candidate failed to win a majority of the votes. A new presidential election will therefore be organised on 24th January.

Of this first presidential election we shall remember the poor result produced by the Social Democrat Party candidate that causes a problem for the Prime Minister Vladimir Spilda; "there is no other possibility in our party" the social democrat leader admitted. The CSSD leader, who in the first place, only had a slight majority in the Chamber of Representatives, is now weakened by the rivalry within his own movement. Many Social Democrat representatives and senators placed their bets on Milos Zeman preferring not to rally around Petr Pithart hence provoking the failure of the first round of the election in order to force the organisation of another. The majority of the CSSD members would like Milos Zeman (former Prime Minister from 1998 to 2002) to succeed Vaclav Havel. Milos Zeman - who had expressed the desire to retire from political life - has just accepted to stand for the supreme office during the second presidential election on 24th January. The Christian Democrats might also be disappointed with the result produced by their candidate Petr Pithart. The latter, who has been tentatively pronounced favourite just one day before the election did not manage to bring together the number of votes that he should have won. Finally Vaclav Klaus (ODS) who is the favourite in the opinion polls if there were to be a presidential election governed by universal suffrage, still has a long way to go before achieving his dream of succeeding his eternal enemy Vaclav Havel.

The new election will bring Vaclav Klaus (Civic Democrat Party, ODS) into opposition against Milos Zeman (Social Democrat Party, CSSD). The two men enjoy an almost equal chance of winning the election. The ODS candidate will be supported by all of the representatives and senators from his movement; whilst the former Prime Minister will have to face the opposition on part of the CSSD represented amongst others, by the Prime Minister Vladimir Spilda, President of the National Assembly, Lubomir Zaoralek, and the Minister of National Education, Petra Buzkova.

Petr Pithart finally gave up the idea of standing in this second election in the face of the CSSD's refusal to establish him as the candidate for the entire government coalition. As a result the Centrist Coalition (Christian Democrat Union -Czech People's Party, KDU-CSL, and the Union of Liberty-Democratic Union -US-DEU) will not choose between either of the candidates standing. The appointment of the next President of Czechia might in fine lie in the hands of the Communist Party (KSCM) whose 44 votes in the Chamber of Representatives will much sollicited on 24th January.

Results of the first round of the presidential election in Czechia:

Source Agence France Presse

Results of the second round of the presidential election in Czechia:

Source Agence France Presse

Results of the third round of the presidential election in Czechia:

Number of blank or void ballot sheets: 84

Source Agence France Presse
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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