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Czech Republic - Presidential Election

Second presidential election in Czechia , 24th January 2003

Second presidential election in Czechia , 24th January 2003

24/01/2003 - Results - 2nd round

With the second presidential election ending in failure, succession to Vaclav Havel has reached deadlock. After three rounds of voting on Friday 24th January, the representatives and senators of the Czech Parliament who had convened in the Castle of Prague did not managed to elect a new President for the country.

Three candidates were standing in this second election:

- Vaclav Klaus, Civic Democrat Party candidate (ODS), the only one of the three candidates to have participated in the last election on 15th January;

- Milos Zeman, Social Democrat Party candidate (CSSD) former Prime Minister (1998-2002);

- Jaroslava Moserova, representing the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) supported by the senators who are members of the Union of Freedom-Democratic Union (US-DEU) and the Christian Democrat Union-Czech People's Party (KDU-CSL) as well as by independent senators. Ms Moserova is a former doctor, translator of detective novels, writer of TV and radio scenarios, was Czech Ambassador in Australia and New Zealand between 1991-1993; former president of the general conference of the UNESCO between 1999 and 2001 and at present is Vice President of the Senate.

According to the opinion polls, that were undertaken just before the second election, Vaclav Klaus was the candidate with the greatest support from the public (48% of those interviewed said they would like to see him elected President). 36% were in favour of Milos Zeman and 16% were for Jaroslava Moserova.

In the absence of President Vaclav Havel, the three candidates successively gave their ideas on the presidential function before the MP's in the Spanish Hall of the Castle of Prague, home to the Czech heads of State. Vaclav Klaus stressed his experience in power insisting on the fact that, in his eyes, the President should not be opposed to Parliament or the Government. He also confirmed that if he won he would be the President of all Czechs. Jaroslava Moserova presented the differences between her and the other two candidates: as the only woman present in the election she positioned herself has heir to Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937), elected President of Czechoslovakia in 1920, 1927 and 1934. "The people of this country have no confidence in political parties, I am convinced that they will have confidence in me," she declared. Finally Milos Zeman made the point that the President was part of the executive and as such he could not simply be a moral authority but that he had to involve himself in society debates by supporting the government's positive activities and by fighting against what he considered to be contrary to the good or in the interests of society.

The surprise in this presidential election came when the Social Democrat candidate, Milos Zeman was eliminated during the first round of voting. Since none of the candidates won an absolute majority within both Chambers of Parliament, only Vaclav Klaus, who came out in the lead in the Chamber of Deputies, and Jaroslava Moserova, who took first position in the Senate were allowed to take part in the second round. Milos Zeman who started off as a slight favourite, did not manage to rally the votes of the CSSD representatives to his name. Contrary to what his meeting with the communist parliamentarians had led him to believe the day before the vote the former Prime Minister did not manage to ensure the support of the 44 communist MP's. Just like Jaroslav Bures, the unfortunate Social Democrat Party candidate in the presidential election on 15th January, Milos Zeman was a victim of the divisions within the CSSD; the present Prime Minister Vladimir Spilda who was quite opposed to his predecessor's candidature, succeeded in convincing enough representatives to follow him and provoke the failure of the candidate from their own movement. Milos Zeman was also a victim of some of his past attitudes; some believe that he does not have the necessary qualities to be President of the Republic. The Social Democrat candidate is in effect far from being a man of consensus and in the past he managed to irritate his German and Austrian neighbours to the extreme. Amongst other things we shall always remember what he said when he was Prime Minister, as he justified the brutal expulsion of the 2.5 million Sudeten Germans after the end of the Second World War.

As in the first election the second round of the presidential election took place just a few hours after the first round and witnessed the battle between Vaclav Klaus, who had again taken the lead in the Chamber of Deputies and Jaroslava Moserova, who had won the vote in the Senate. Since neither of them managed to win an absolute majority of votes from the MP's and the Senators present a third round was organised.

During this last round neither candidate managed to rally an absolute majority from all of the Parliamentarians. The Civic Democrat Candidate won 127 votes ie 14 more than in the first election on 15th January but also 14 less than the 141 votes for the required majority. For her part Jaroslava Moserova won 65 votes.

Just before the election Jan Hartl, director of the opinion poll institute STEM declared, "If all the Parliamentarians vote logically no one will be elected on Friday". This forecast was confirmed even though it cannot be demonstrated clearly that all of the Parliamentarians voted "logically". Before the election Senator Martin Mejstrick former student leader of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 invited Vaclav Klaus and Milos Zeman to withdraw their candidature and rally around Jaroslava Moserova, who was repeating the claims of "Thank you, now leave", a citizens association that demanded the resignation of the politicians of the "past" and who called for a renewal of Czech politics. "Vaclav Klaus and Milos Zeman are ghosts of the past emerging directly from the Castle of Prague" declared Martin Mejstrick, alluding to the corruption scandals that came to light during each of the candidates' mandates.

At the end of this election Vaclav Klaus the Civic Democrat Party candidate said he was prepared to continue his fight to succeed the present President Vaclav Havel, suggesting a modification in the election method so that the present deadlock might be broken. ."I am impatiently waiting for comments from the public opinion so that I can see whether it is in favour of the establishment of universal suffrage for the presidential election," said the ODS candidate, declaring that he was in favour of a change in the election method after having been opposed to this for a very long time. This change might only happen however after a change in the Constitution and this requires the agreement from a great majority of the political parties.

A third presidential election for which the Czech constitution does not impose a definite date, is to be organised in order to try and appoint a successor to Vaclav Havel. Otakar Motejl, the present ombudsman for Czechia and a famous lawyer, defender of numerous Czech opposition members after the normalisation of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968 might be appointed as the Social Democrat Party's candidate. Otakar Motejl and Petr Pithart, President of the Senate and the unfortunate candidate in the presidential election on 15th January are the Czech population's favourites for the position of President according to the opinion polls.

If Vaclav Havel's successor is not elected on 2nd February, the day when the present President's mandate comes to an end, his powers will be divided between the Prime Minister, Vladimir Spilda and the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Lubomir Zaoralek.
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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