|3rd President of the Czech Republic|
8 March 2013
|Prime Minister||Petr Nečas
|Preceded by||Václav Klaus|
|Prime Minister of the Czech Republic|
22 July 1998 – 15 July 2002
|Preceded by||Josef Tošovský|
|Succeeded by||Vladimír Špidla|
|Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies|
27 June 1996 – 17 July 1998
|Preceded by||Milan Uhde|
|Succeeded by||Václav Klaus|
|Leader of the Social Democratic Party|
28 February 1993 – 7 April 2001
|Preceded by||Jiří Horák|
|Succeeded by||Vladimír Špidla|
28 September 1944 |
Kolín, Bohemia and Moravia
(now Czech Republic)
|Political party||Communist Party (1968–1970)
Civic Forum (1990–1991)
Civic Movement (1991–1992)
Social Democratic Party (1992–2009)
Party of Civic Rights (2009–present)
|Spouse(s)||Blanka Zemanová (Divorced)
|Alma mater||University of Economics, Prague|
Miloš Zeman (Czech pronunciation: [ˈmɪloʃ ˈzɛman] ( listen); born 28 September 1944) is the third and current President of the Czech Republic, in office since 8 March 2013. Previously he served as the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic from 1998 to 2002. As leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party during the 1990s, he transformed it into one of the country's major parties. He was Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech parliament, from 1996 to 1998.
In January 2013, Zeman was elected as President of the Czech Republic. He is the first directly elected President in Czech history; both of his predecessors, Václav Havel and Václav Klaus, were elected by the Parliament.
Early years (Communist Czechoslovakia)
Zeman was born in Kolín; his parents divorced when he was two years old, and he was raised by his mother, who was a teacher. He studied at a high school in Kolín; from 1965 he continued his studies at the University of Economics in Prague, graduating in 1969.
In 1968, during the Prague Spring, he became a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia; however, he was expelled in 1970, due to his disagreement with the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. He was dismissed from his job and spent more than a decade as an employee of the sports organisation Sportpropag (1971–84). Since 1984, he worked in the company Agrodat. However, he was dismissed again in 1989, this time due to his critical article "Prognostika a přestavba" ("Prognostics and Reconstruction").
Activities from 1989 to 2013
In summer 1989, he appeared on Czechoslovak Television with a critical commentary about the unsatisfactory state of the Czechoslovak economy. His speech caused a scandal. However, the same opinions helped him to join the leaders of the Civic Forum few months later, during the Velvet Revolution.
In 1990, Zeman became a member of the Chamber of the Nations of the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly. In 1992, he successfully ran for the Chamber of the People of the Federal Assembly, already as a member of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), which he joined the same year. In 1993, he was elected the chairman of the party, and in the following years he transformed it into one of the country's major parties.
The success of ČSSD in the 1996 legislative election allowed him to prevent his rival Václav Klaus and his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) from creating majority government. Zeman became the Chair of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic and held this post until the early election in 1998.
In April 2001, he was replaced by Vladimír Špidla as the party leader. Zeman then retired and moved to live in the countryside (Vysočina Region). His nomination for Czech president failed at the 2003 presidential election (to Václav Klaus), due to the party disunity. Zeman became an outspoken critic of his former party's leaders.
Presidency (March 2013 – present)
Miloš Zeman announced his comeback and the intention to run in the first direct presidential election in the Czech Republic in February 2012. Together with Jan Fischer, polling showed him to be one of the two strongest candidates in the election. Zeman narrowly won the first round of the elections and went into the second round to face Karel Schwarzenberg, winning by a clearer margin. His term began in March 2013.
Zeman's allegedly excessive alcohol consumption became a subject of public discussion and media attention on several occasions. Many Czechs believed he was drunk during his appearances in Czech TV headquarters, shortly after his win in the 2013 presidential election, or during the exhibition of Bohemian Crown Jewels.
In May 2013, Zeman refused to grant Professorship to the literary historian Martin C. Putna, due to his provocative appearance at 2011 Prague Gay Pride. Putna, who carried a controversial banner during the event, had been approved through standard academic procedure.
In June 2013, the coalition government led by Petr Nečas resigned in association with a corruption and spying scandal. Zeman, reinforced by his victory in the first direct presidential election, decided to appoint his friend and a long-time ally Jiří Rusnok the Prime Minister and let him form a new government, ignoring the political balance of power in the Czech Parliament. This was viewed by some of the Czech and foreign media as political power grab undermining parliamentary democracy and expanding his powers. "Don't let yourself get annoyed by media criticism of jealous fools who have never in their life done a useful thing", said the Czech President to the members of Rusnok's cabinet during the appointment on 10 July 2013.
Zeman played an important role in a scandal that occurred in October 2013, shortly after the Czech legislative election. Michal Hašek, the First Deputy Chairman of the winning Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) and his allies from the party called on the Chairman Bohuslav Sobotka to resign due to the party's poor election result and eliminated him from the team negotiating the next government. However, the further course of events showed that Hašek and his allies attended a secret post-election meeting with the Czech President and possibly negotiated a 'coup' in the ČSSD with him. Hašek had previously denied the accusations, stating in the Czech Television that "there was no meeting", however, his allies (deputies Milan Chovanec, Zdeněk Škromach, Jeroným Tejc and Jiří Zimola) later admitted that the meeting took place. The event sparked public protests in the country and eventually led to Hašek's apology and resignation as the First Deputy Chairman of the ČSSD. Zeman, who is known as a supporter of the wing in the ČSSD led by Michal Hašek, said he didn't initiate the meeting. His Party of Civic Rights – Zeman's people (SPOZ) lost the election with 1.5% of the votes.
On 6 April 2014, Zeman opined that strong action be taken, possibly including sending NATO forces to Ukraine, if Russia tries to annex the eastern part of the country, in the wake of the 2014 Crimean crisis. He was quoted in a public radio show as having said: "The moment Russia decides to widen its territorial expansion to the eastern part of Ukraine, that is where the fun ends. There I would plead not only for the strictest EU sanctions, but even for military readiness of the North Atlantic Alliance, like for example NATO forces entering Ukrainian territory." The Czech Republic has been a NATO member since 1999, joining just weeks before the alliance decided to bomb Yugoslavia, when Zeman was prime minister. In the Czech constitutional system it is the government that has the main say in foreign policy, although the President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The ČSSD government of Bohuslav Sobotka resisted strong EU sanctions against Russia after its annexation of Crimea because of the negative economic impact of such a step.
In June 2011, Zeman, referring to Islam, said "The enemy is the anti-civilisation spreading from North Africa to Indonesia. Two billion people live in it." He likened Muslims who believe in the Qur'an to antisemitic and racist Nazis. A complaint was lodged against him following the comments.
In November 2012, during a speech at the University of Economics in Prague, he explained the dislike that he has for Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State. Zeman stated that Albright had promised that there would be no bombardment of civilians during the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia. "And Madeleine Albright made a promise, and Madeleine Albright didn't keep the promise. Since then, I don't like her."
Zeman has expressed opposition to having an embassy in Kosovo. He said that he is against the recognition of Kosovo as a state, and views it as a terror regime financed by the narcotics mafia. While visiting Belgrade in 2014, he stated that he opposes the formation of an independent army in Kosovo, as he thinks it would be equivalent to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army). He also commented on the history of terror acts committed by the KLA, and noted that its disbanding was a component of the peace agreements.
He views the war in Donbass as "a civil war between two groups of Ukrainian citizens". As for the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, he has noted that the Kosovo precedent has been used as an argument for the separation of Crimea from Ukraine.
In March 2015, Zeman commented Czech anti-NATO rallies against the US Army's military convoy (called the "Dragoon Ride") crossing Czech Republic following NATO exercises in Poland and the Baltic states:
"In the past months I have been fighting anti-Russian fools, but most recently I have had to fight anti-American fools as well, since fools are evenly spread on both sides. ... I disagree with the U.S. troops being labelled an occupation army for one simple reason. We experienced occupation twice last century [1939 and 1968] and we know how it looks like."—Miloš Zeman
Zeman has announced that he intends to visit Moscow for the 2015 Victory Day celebrations and the 70th anniversary of the liberation from Nazi Germany. He said that he won't go there for the purpose of watching military equipment, but rather to honor the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. He describes his visit to Moscow as an "expression of thankfulness for that we in this country don't have to speak German, if we would have become submissive collaborators of Aryan origin", and that "we don't have to say Heil Hitler, Heil Himmler, Heil Göring, and eventually Heil Heydrich, that would have been particularly interesting". Other EU politicians have declared that they will not attend the events due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Andrew H. Schapiro, the ambassador of the United States, criticized the decision saying that it would "be awkward" if Zeman was the only statesman from the EU at the ceremony. Zeman responded by banning him from the Prague Castle.
"I cannot imagine that the Czech ambassador in Washington would advise the US president where he should travel. And I will not allow any ambassador to have a say in my foreign travel plans."—Miloš Zeman
Zeman's decision to ban the US ambassador from the Prague Castle was alleviated by his office on a later date.
Criticism and controversies
In 1996, before the legislative election, he negotiated with the Czech-Swiss entrepreneur Jan Vízek in the German city of Bamberg. In the so-called "Bamberg Memorandum", a group of Swiss entrepreneurs allegedly negotiated funding of the ČSSD pre-election campaign in exchange for the promise of influencing the economic development in the Czech Republic after the election. The investigation ended in 2000. Vízek was convicted of falsification of the memorandum by copying signatures from earlier documents. He later admitted that he intentionally published the case in order to compromise Zeman before the next election, held in 1998. Zeman's guilt has not been proven, but it remains unclear what was behind the meetings between Zeman and Vízek in 1996.
In 1999, one of Zeman's advisors, Jaroslav Novotný, allegedly blackmailed the director of the state-owned Štiřín Castle, Václav Hrubý. Novotný allegedly pressed him to falsify evidence in order to prove that former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec corrupted journalists. The police confirmed the blackmail, but nobody was punished, despite convincing evidence.
Zeman has been often criticized for his contacts with the powerful Czech lobbyist and his former chief advisor, Miroslav Šlouf. During Zeman's prime minister-ship, Šlouf maintained contacts with the controversial entrepreneur František Mrázek, nicknamed the "Godfather of Czech Organized Crime". Šlouf and Mrázek met and exchanged information at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. Mrázek was assassinated in 2006. In the leaked wiretapping records, he nicknames Zeman mlha ("fog") and claims that Zeman "could not be bribed, and wanted only a sandwich, three pickles and for people to like him." In 2010, Šlouf and Martin Nejedlý, a representative of the Russian oil company LUKoil in the Czech Republic, were the main sponsors of his Party of Civic Rights – Zemanovci.
In 2002, German chancellor Gerhard Schröder cancelled his official visit to Prague after Zeman had called the ethnic Germans in pre-war Czechoslovakia "Hitler's Fifth column". Zeman also stated, that "the Czechs and Slovaks were doing the Sudeten Germans a favor by expelling them, because they granted them their wish to go Heim ins Reich". Zeman also called his rival in the presidential campaign of 2013 a "sudeťák" [Sudeten German]. Thus the Austrian Die Presse ascribed Zeman's victory to an "unprecedented anti-German dirty campaign."
On 26 May 2014, on the occasion of festivities for the independence of Israel, Zeman said "So let me quote one of their [Islamic] sacred texts to support this statement: "A tree says, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. A stone says, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." I would criticize those calling for the killing of Arabs, but I do not know of any movement calling for mass murdering of Arabs. However, I know of one anti-civilisation movement calling for the mass murder of Jews." When criticized and called upon from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to apologize, his office replied "President Zeman definitely does not intend to apologise. For the president would consider it blasphemy to apologise for the quotation of a sacred Islamic text."
On 17 November 2014, the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, thousands of Czechs took part in a demonstration against Zeman, protesting his pro-Russian stance and vulgar language. A thrown egg accidentally hit the German president, Joachim Gauck; German officials said it was just a piece of eggshell. On the same day, a group of about 60 people was observed holding a counter-protest in support of president Zeman.
In the 1970s, Zeman was married to Blanka Zemanová; the couple divorced in 1978. In 1993, he married his assistant Ivana Bednarčíková (born 29 April 1965). He has an adult son named David from the first marriage. His daughter from the second, Kateřina Zemanová (born 1 January 1994), was one of the most visible faces in Zeman's presidential election team. In a post-election speech, Zeman asked her to be his "informal First Lady", as his wife is allegedly shy and doesn't like the attention of media. He also describes himself as a "tolerant atheist".
|Czech Republic||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion||March 7, 2013 (ex officio)|
|Czech Republic||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk||March 7, 2013 (ex officio)|
|Slovakia||Order of the White Double Cross|
|Germany||Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Miloš Zeman.|
- Curriculum Vitae at the website of the Prague Castle
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Miloš Zeman at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Miloš Zeman in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Miloš Zeman collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Miloš Zeman at the website of the Government of the Czech Republic (Czech)
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Social Democratic Party
|Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies
|Prime Minister of the Czech Republic
|President of the Czech Republic