Miloš Zeman is polling third, but gaining on his rivals
Czech President Václav Klaus, a co-founder of the center-right Civic Democrats (ODS) has reportedly welcomed the candidacy of former Social Democrat (ČSSD) prime minister Miloš Zeman, a dark horse in the 2013 presidential elections, which will be the first to be decided by the people rather than the politicians.
“I regard Miloš Zeman as a significant figure in Czech politics and have never concealed that. I also consider his presidential candidacy as a logical development of his political career. A presidential candidate should, in my view, be someone who has done something for our country. Miloš Zeman is among those who have,” Klaus told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes. ‘A presidential candidate should, in my view, be someone who has done something for our country. Miloš Zeman is among those who have.’
Zeman, who lost to Klaus in a bid for the presidency nearly a decade ago, welcomed his old rival’s support. “I take it as an expression of sympathy. For me, support from strong figures is quite important, and undoubtedly President Klaus is a strong figure,” he said.
The former ČSSD leader, who officially tossed his hat in the ring in February, is honorary chairman of the Party of Civic Rights — Zemanovci (SPOZ); the upstart party failed to get the 5.0 percent of votes in lower house elections in May 2010 that would have allowed the party to enter parliament.
However, a Factum Invenio public opinion poll published in early May showed Zeman gaining ground on Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar (who lost to Klaus in the subsequent contest) in the battle for second place, but both trailing well behind Jan Fischer (unaffiliated), who served as prime minister in a caretaker government in mid-2009.
Zeman is known for having built up the ČSSD into a party of government, for his sharp wit, penchant for the Czech herbal liquor Becherovka, and, on the downside, for a series of scandals taking place during his premiership and the influence of behind-the-scenes lobbyists.
According to the new legislation approved by the Senate, any Czech with 50,000 signatures from supporters can join the race to be head of state. The presidential election will be a two-round battle if no single candidate wins more than 50 percent of all votes cast in the first round. The two highest scoring candidates from the first round would go through for a head-to-head battle in the second round, with the one getting most votes declared the winner.
Apart from Fischer, Švejnar and Zeman, potential candidates include foreign minister and TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg and Senator Přemysl Sobotka (ODS).