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UPDATE: In the final week, the Czech presidential race opened up.  Jan Fischer performed poorly in the debates, and the Czech Republic’s aristocratic foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, picked up support from two sources: those who disliked both Zeman and Fischer, and those from the centre-right who started to doubt Fischer’s viability in a run-off against Zeman.  After an exciting final week, Schwarzenberg prevailed over Fischer, and will face a run-off against Zeman on 25th/26th January.

Original text: On the 11th and 12th of January, the people of the Czech Republic will vote in direct presidential elections for the first time. Although there are nine candidates in total, the real race is between two front-runners. Both are former prime ministers: a business-friendly independent, Jan Fischer, and a veteran leftist, Milos Zeman.

The introduction of direct presidential elections after more than two decades of democratic consolidation is an interesting development. Until now, the post has been filled by indirect elections in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The figurehead role was initially uncontroversial, being filled for the first ten years by the revered dissident playwright, Vaclav Havel. However, when Havel’s term came to an end in 2003, the more divisive Vaclav Klaus occupied ‘The Castle’. Klaus’s re-election in 2008 was contentious — his victory was narrow, and the vote marred by allegations of bribery and corruption — hence the pressure to change.

Whether the rough and tumble of a traditional Czech election campaign will be any more edifying remains to be seen. Plenty of mud is being slung over alleged campaign financing irregularities and accusations that ‘supporters’ have been paid for their participation. In any event, the powers of the presidency remain largely ceremonial and, from that perspective at least, little is likely to change.




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  1. January 11, 2013 at 12:06 pm — Reply

    Hi Alison, thanks for mentioning our election. The situation has shifted quite significantly during this final week. It is increasingly likely that the real fight will be between Zeman and our current FM Karel Schwarzenberg. And there can hardly be a bigger difference between two candidates than between these two.

    • January 11, 2013 at 12:43 pm — Reply

      Hi David,

      Thank you for your interesting comment. I agree that Schwarzenberg is picking up support from voters who don’t like either Fischer or Zemen – and since the frontrunners are only on a maximum of 25% each, that leaves 50% potentially up for grabs. Also true that Fischer has performed badly in the debates, and that Zemen is now clearly leading between those two. Still, it looks like Schwarzenberg has much ground to make up. I haven’t seen a poll yet that puts his support in double figures, but if you have data to the contrary, I’d love to see it!

  2. January 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm — Reply

    http://www.factum.cz/images/zpravy/520/1.png and http://www.sanep.cz/repository/images/2012/bre/sanep_prezidentska_volba_leden_(male)_1.jpg are the last two polls from Monday (no polls were legally allowed to be published after that day). Both have very dubious methodology and background but there is quite a lack of good polling in Czechia. Both show significant rise of Schwarzenberg’s numbers m-o-m and Monday was very much the first day of the final momentum and the Schwarzenberg campaign’s visibility is enourmous these days here in Prague and on Facebook.

    Perhaps more interestingly, the leading bookmakers have Schwarzenberg and Fischer tied for the probability of getting into the second round now and the trend is rapidly shifting on Schwarzenberg’s side: http://www.ifortuna.cz/cz/sazeni/?action=filter_by_subgame&actionId=9922&itemTypeId=1548&date=&pagelet=&disableSeoPrimary=1. Moreover, Schwarzenberg’s chances in the second are perceived as much much higher if he gets there. Fischer’s campaign has been basically plummeting for quite some time and if he survives into the second round the overwhelming consensus is that he’ll lose.

    • January 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm — Reply

      Certainly the results will be interesting to watch. Momentum is very important in politics and, in the absence of reliable polling, who knows! Fischer looks much less viable as the candidate of the centre-right than he did a few months, or even weeks, ago – but will the support he is losing will coalesce around Schwarzenberg, or will be distributed between other candidates? Monday’s polls suggest the latter but, as they say, a week is a long time in politics. Visibility on Facebook and in Prague can be deceptive, but it certainly doesn’t harm a campaign. Thanks again for your comments, and keep in touch!

  3. January 12, 2013 at 2:40 pm — Reply
  4. Ivana
    January 14, 2013 at 8:43 am — Reply

    Hi guys,

    I appreciate you write about our elections in the Czech Republic. I always learn something new from other country´s opinion on what is going on in the centre of Europe.
    Would you just please correct Mr. Zeman´s name (from Zemen)as it does not look professional on your website to spell the name of our next possible president in a wrong way.
    Thank you. Ivana

    • January 14, 2013 at 10:59 am — Reply

      This is fixed. Thanks for spotting that. Editorial team.

  5. Jiri
    January 28, 2013 at 2:52 pm — Reply

    Hi, however the election result is what it is, I´d like to point out that almost half of voting people want the change of current policy. From my point of view it´s good result. Unfortunatelly majority accepted the lies said by Zeman and the “German panic” artificially escalated by him. The result is we will have (or we have) vulgar president several times caught saying the lies. It´s shame, but as I said, almost 50% of people don´t support him.

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