11th Dec 2023

Czech politics in limbo over Zeman health crisis

Listen to article

Czech president Miloš Zeman is being stripped of his powers due to bad health, creating post-election limbo in Prague.

A senate committee unanimously voted the measure on Tuesday (19 October) evening after the Central Military Hospital where Zeman was being treated said he was "incapable of fulfilling any of his working responsibilities".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

A plenary vote will now take place in the senate on 5 November and in the lower house on 8 November to formally transfer Zeman's powers to prime minister Andrei Babiš and parliament speaker Radek Vondráček, a Babiš ally, in line with the Czech constitution.

Most of those powers are ceremonial.

But Zeman fell ill just before he was due to name someone to form a government following Czech elections earlier this month, in which Babiš won the most votes, but still lost to a coalition of opposition parties led by Petr Fiala.

The hiatus until parliament meets leaves the country symbolically headless for two weeks.

The fact Babiš, a billionaire with a chequered past, will then be put in charge of unseating himself also posed a threat of dirty tricks.

Babiš has promised to name Fiala, even though Zeman's last comments prior to his hospitalisation were that the largest party, meaning Babiš' ANO party, should first be asked to try to form a ruling coalition.

But in the meantime, revelations about one of Zeman's aides exposed even more chaos at the country's highest political level.

"With regards to the new information ... the police will launch investigation of possible unlawful acts, in which signs of crimes against the republic can be detected," Czech police said on Tuesday, speaking about a Zeman aide, Vratislav Mynář.

Zeman is in intensive care reportedly suffering from a liver complication called hepatic encephalopathy, which impairs cognitive functions.

The hospital had told Mynář that Zeman was unfit to work already on 13 October.

But when Mynář visited Zeman in hospital on 14 October, he left with a document about recalling parliament which bore Zeman's signature, posing the question if Zeman's signature had been forged.

The mess in Prague comes amid wider EU concern about rule of law in several member states, also including Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia.

Babiš himself has faced allegations of conflict of interest in getting EU funds for his private business empire.

For his part, Mynář was defiant on Tuesday.

He said only Zeman could dismiss him and fired off tweets about historical crises in Czech sovereignty.

But Babiš signalled his support for due process the same way that he promised to let Fiala, the opposition leader, to take over the reins after parliament finally does meet.

"The whole situation that has arisen here is an inadequate and unacceptable activity on the part of chancellor Mynář ... it would be best if he resigned from his post immediately," Babiš told the news website.


Why doesn't Babiš get same focus as Hungary and Poland?

In comparison to other EU members, the Czech government has escaped relatively unscathed. The populist governments in Hungary and Poland are facing serious consequences for testing EU tolerance on core democratic values.


Tense EU-China summit showdown unlikely to bear fruit

EU leaders will meet their Chinese counterparts in Beijing for the first face-to-face summit since 2019. Their agenda includes trade imbalances, economic security, Ukraine and human rights — what can be expected by the end of 48 hours of talks?

Latest News

  1. How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis
  2. Many problems to solve in Dubai — honesty about them is good
  3. Sudanese fleeing violence find no haven in Egypt or EU
  4. How should EU reform the humanitarian aid system?
  5. EU suggests visa-bans on Israeli settlers, following US example
  6. EU ministers prepare for all-night fiscal debate
  7. Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief
  8. Is there hope for the EU and eurozone?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us