Czech presidential election, 2003

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The 2003 Czech presidential election took place in January and February 2003 to elect a new President of the Czech Republic. The Parliament of the Czech Republic failed to elect a candidate on the first 2 ballots on the 15 and 24 January. However on the third round of the third ballot on the 28 February, Václav Klaus was elected President.

Background and procedure[edit]

In 2003 Václav Havel had served the maximum 2 consecutive terms as President of the Czech Republic, with his second term ending on 2 February 2003. A joint session of the Parliament of the Czech Republic was held on the 15 January 2003 to elect his successor.[1]

Before the constitution was amended in 2012 to establish direct presidential election,[2] the President of the Czech Republic was elected indirectly by a joint session of the Czech Parliament.[1] Each ballot had 3 rounds, with a candidate needing an absolute majority of both the 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies and the 81 members of the Senate in order to be elected in the first round.[3] When no candidate achieved a majority in both houses of parliament in the first round, then a second round was held between the top two candidates from the first round, in which a candidate again needed to get a majority in both houses,[4] but only among the members who were present at the election.

If the second round was also unsuccessful, then in the third round a candidate needed to win a majority of all members of parliament, but with the 2 houses of parliament being taken together.[4] So if all the members of parliament were present a candidate would need 141 votes, from a combination of deputies and senators, in order to be elected in the third round.[5] When no candidate is elected in all 3 rounds, the process would be repeated at further joint sessions until a candidate was elected.[5]

Initial candidates[edit]

The leading party in the government coalition, the Social Democratic Party, nominated a former justice minister Jaroslav Bureš.[6] He defeated a former leader of his party and Prime Minister, Miloš Zeman, for the nomination, despite Zeman winning a party primary, causing splits in the party.[7] Zeman was a rival of the Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Vladimír Špidla and Bureš was an attempted compromise candidate for the party.[5]

The junior party in the coalition, the Christian Democratic Party, meanwhile nominated the chairman of the Senate and former Prime Minister between 1990 and 1992, Petr Pithart as their candidate.[6][8] He was also supported by the Freedom Union party, another party in the governing coalition.[7]

The main opposition party, the Civic Democratic Party, chose the former leader of the party and Prime Minister, Václav Klaus, as their candidate.[6] Klaus declared his candidacy in October 2002 and stepped down as leader of his party in December, after having led his party to defeat at the 2002 parliamentary election.[7][9]

The final candidate in the election was Miroslav Kříženecký, a former military prosecutor, who was supported by the Communist Party.[6]

First ballot[edit]

Petr Pithart came second in the first ballot of the election

Reports before the election had Petr Pithart and Václav Klaus as the favourites for the election, due to disunity in the Social Democrats, with the Social Democrats and some Communists expected to support Pithart on the second round against Václav Klaus.[10][11] However there was scepticism that any candidate would be able to be elected in the first ballot on the 15 January 2003.[12] Before the votes the outgoing President Václav Havel delivered a farewell speech for which he received a standing ovation, after urging legislators to follow their conscience.[13]

The first vote saw no candidate elected, but with the Social Democrat candidate, Jaroslav Bureš, and the Communist candidate, Miroslav Kříženecký being eliminated after both received 46 votes from deputies and senators.[1][14] Almost half of the Social Democrats lawmakers did not vote for Bureš, highlighting the divisions within the party.[1]

Václav Klaus and Petr Pithart competed in the next two rounds, but neither was able to be elected,[15] with Klaus getting the most votes in the Chamber of Deputies, while Pethart received the most votes in the Senate.[16] Klaus led throughout and in the third round received 113 votes to 89 for Pithart,[14] but as 84 legislators submitted empty ballots neither was able to reach the required 141 votes.[16]

Round Václav Klaus Petr Pithart Jaroslav Bureš Miroslav Kříženecký
Deputies Senators Deputies Senators Deputies Senators Deputies Senators
1st 92 31 20 35 39 7 44 2
123 55 46 46
2nd 77 32 46 43 - - - -
109 89 - -
3rd 80 33 44 40 - - - -
113 89 - -

Second ballot[edit]

Miloš Zeman was unexpectedly knocked out after coming third in the first vote of the second ballot.

Following the first ballot the five parties in parliament agreed to try again on the 24 January.[1] Václav Klaus, after leading in the first ballot, was renominated by the Civic Democrats,[1] but no other party again supported the candidates they had nominated in the first ballot.[5]

On the 18 January the Social Democrats nominated the former Prime Minister Miloš Zeman as their candidate in the next ballot.[17] The party leadership was reported to have given him an "overwhelming majority" in the vote on the party's candidate.[17] However Zeman was a rival of the Social Democrat leader and Prime Minister, Vladimír Špidla, and his election was seen as possibly furthering divisions in the party.[17] Meanwhile the 2 junior parties in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, nominated senator and former diplomat Jaroslava Moserová, who would have been the first female Czech president if she had won the election.[5][18][19]

In the first round Miloš Zeman was surprisingly eliminated after winning 78 votes from deputies and 5 from senators.[19] His elimination came after Klaus came first among deputies with 89 votes, while Moserová came first among the senators with 43 votes.[19] Zeman was reported to have been opposed by some Social Democratic legislators in order to prevent him from getting into a position to challenge Prime Minister Špidla.[5] In the second round the deputies again supported Klaus, but the senate voted 42-33 in favour of Moserová.[20] This led to a third round being held, which Klaus won by 127 votes to 65, but with 85 abstentions Klaus failed to reach the required 141 votes.[21]

Round Václav Klaus Jaroslava Moserová Miloš Zeman
Deputies Senators Deputies Senators Deputies Senators
1st 89 32 25 43 78 5
121 68 83
2nd 85 33 32 42 - -
118 74 -
3rd 95 32 26 39 - -
127 65 -

Between the second and third ballots[edit]

The presidential term of Václav Havel finished on the 2 February, which meant that legislators had 30 days to elect a successor according to the constitution.[22] During the period in which there was no president, the powers of the president were assumed jointly by the Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Lubomír Zaorálek.[23] This was the first time the Czech Republic had been without a President.[23]

Opinion polls showed the population strongly supported changing the constitution to allow the direct election of the president by popular vote, with political leaders indicating they would attempt to make this change if a third attempt to elect a president was unsuccessful.[22] On the 5 February a popular Czech singer, Karel Gott, indicated he would be interested in standing if direct popular election was introduced.[22]

Following his defeat in the first round of the second ballot Social Democrat Milos Zeman announced he would not run in a third ballot.[21] However the leader of the opposition Civic Demorats, Mirek Topolánek, restated his party's support for Václav Klaus on the 3 February and called for a new election date to be set.[24] The Speaker Lubomír Zaorálek said on the 7 February that the third ballot would be held on the 28 February.[25]

Third ballot[edit]

Václav Klaus was elected on the third vote of the third ballot

Since the failed second ballot the 3 parties in the governing coalition, the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Freedom Union, had held talks in an attempt to agree on a candidate.[26] On the 19 February 2003 the 3 parties nominated Jan Sokol, the Dean of Charles University in Prague, who formerly had for a short time been education minister in a caretaker government.[26] Sokol had been unanimously backed by the 63 Social Democratic deputies present at a party meeting earlier and if all the legislators from the governing coalition backed Sokol they would be able to elect him as president.[26] By the 25 February a total of 97 legislators from the governing coalition in the Chamber of Deputies signed a declaration to officially nominate Sokol.[27]

At the third ballot on the 28 February 2003, Václav Klaus led on the first 2 votes against Jan Sokol, but failed to reach the necessary majority.[28] However on the third vote Klaus won the support of 142 legislators, narrowly achieving the necessary 141 votes to defeat Sokol who won 124 votes, while 14 legislators abstained and one was absent.[28] Klaus was sworn in as President on the 8 March.[29]

After the election the Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla called a vote of confidence, as the coalition had failed to elect the candidate they had backed.[30] This showed that some leigslators from the coalition must have voted for Klaus, however the government won a vote of confidence on the 11 March after all 101 government deputies voted in favour in the 200 member Chamber of Deputies, while the whole opposition voted against.[30] Spidla then fired the minister of trade and industry, Jiri Rusnok, due to "personal differences", but Rusnok said he thought it was because he had backed Klaus in the presidential vote.[31]

Round Václav Klaus Jan Sokol
Deputies Senators Deputies Senators
1st 115 32 81 47
147 128
2nd 109 30 83 46
139 129
3rd 109 33 78 46
142 124

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Czech legislators to make new attempt to choose Havel successor on Jan. 24". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 17 January 2003. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  2. ^ "Klaus signs bill on direct presidential elections". Prague Daily Monitor. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Hejma, Ondrej (15 January 2003). "Czech Leader Vaclav Havel Gives Farewell". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Hejma, Ondrej (15 January 2003). "Czech Parliament convenes to elect successor to President Vaclav Havel". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Czech presidential election stumbles". BBC News Online. 24 January 2003. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d "News of Radio Prague". Radio Prague. 15 December 2002. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Hrobský, Martin (18 December 2002). "Presidential candidates step forward as Vaclav Havel's term draws to an end". Radio Prague. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  8. ^ "Christian Democrats choose presidential candidate". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 14 December 2002. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "Former prime minister to run for president". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 10 October 2002. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  10. ^ Cameron, Rob (14 January 2003). "News of Radio Prague". Radio Prague. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  11. ^ Konviser, Bruce (14 January 2003). "Czech parliament to pick president; Some fear that no candidate will win required majority.". The Washington Times (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Rybarova, Nadia (14 January 2003). "Parliament to elect successor to President Vaclav Havel". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Hejma, Ondrej (15 January 2003). "Second round in vote to choose Havel successor inconclusive". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Linek, LukáŠ; Mansfeldová, Zdenka (6 December 2004). "Czech Republic". European Journal of Political Research (Wiley Online Library) 43 (7-8): 980–988. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.2004.00187.x. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  15. ^ "Czechs fail to choose a successor for Havel". The Record (HighBeam Research). 16 January 2003. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  16. ^ a b "Czech's parliament fails to elect president". China Daily (HighBeam Research). 17 January 2003. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c "Czech's ruling Social Democrats choose a new presidential candidate". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 18 January 2003. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  18. ^ Cameron, Rob (21 January 2003). "News of Radio Prague". Radio Prague. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c Janicek, Karel (24 January 2003). "Czech Lawmakers Face New Presidential Vote". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  20. ^ Janicek, Karel (24 January 2003). "Czech Lawmakers Can't Decide on President". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Janicek, Karel (24 January 2003). "Czech Lawmakers Can't Agree on President". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  22. ^ a b c "Popular Czech singer is considering running for president". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 5 February 2003. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  23. ^ a b Rybarova, Nadia (3 February 2003). "Czech Republic is without a president for the first time". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  24. ^ "Czech Republic: Czech opposition party demands date for presidential election.". Info Prod Research (HighBeam Research). 5 February 2003. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  25. ^ "Lawmakers will make third attempt to choose Havel successor". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 7 February 2003. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  26. ^ a b c "Ruling coalition names presidential candidate to replace Vaclav Havel". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 19 February 2003. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  27. ^ Janicek, Karel (25 February 2003). "Ruling coalition fields joint candidate in third attempt to replace Havel". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  28. ^ a b Janicek, Karel (28 February 2003). "Vaclav Klaus Is Elected Czech President". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  29. ^ "Klaus takes over from Vaclav Havel". The Independent (HighBeam Research). 8 March 2003. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  30. ^ a b Rybarova, Nadia (11 March 2003). "Czech government survives vote of confidence". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  31. ^ Janicek, Karel (13 March 2003). "Czech premier fires minister of trade and industry". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 20 June 2012.