Miloš Zeman

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Miloš Zeman
Miloš Zeman Praha.JPG
3rd President of the Czech Republic
Incumbent
Assumed office
8 March 2013
Prime Minister Petr Nečas
Jiří Rusnok
Bohuslav Sobotka
Preceded by Václav Klaus
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic
In office
22 July 1998 – 15 July 2002
President Václav Havel
Preceded by Josef Tošovský
Succeeded by Vladimír Špidla
Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
27 June 1996 – 17 July 1998
President Václav Havel
Preceded by Milan Uhde
Succeeded by Václav Klaus
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
In office
28 February 1993 – 7 April 2001
Preceded by Jiří Horák
Succeeded by Vladimír Špidla
Personal details
Born (1944-09-28) 28 September 1944 (age 69)
Kolín, Bohemia and Moravia
(now Czech Republic)
Political party Communist Party (1968–70)
Civic Forum (1990–1991)
Civic Movement (1991–1992)
Social Democratic Party (1992–2009)
Party of Civic Rights (2009–present, honorary chairman)
Alma mater University of Economics, Prague
Religion Atheism[1]
Formerly Roman Catholicism
Signature

Miloš Zeman (Czech pronunciation: [ˈmɪloʃ ˈzɛman] ( ); 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)[edit]

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.[2]

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.[3] 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").[2]

Activities from 1989 to 2013[edit]

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.[4]

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,[2] and in the following years he transformed it into one of the country's major parties.

Miloš Zeman and Vladimir Putin in April 2002

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 1998, the ČSSD won the election and Zeman became the Prime Minister of his own minority government, which he led throughout the next four years.

In April 2001, he was replaced by Vladimír Špidla as the party leader.[5] 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.

He left the Czech Social Democratic Party on 21 March 2007, due to conflicts with the leader and chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party, Jiří Paroubek.[6]

In October 2009, he founded a new party, Party of Civic Rights – Zemanovci.[7] The party did not win any seats in the 2010 or 2013 legislative elections.

Presidency (March 2013 – present)[edit]

Zeman during a presidential pre-election debate at Czech Radio, January 2013

Miloš Zeman announced his comeback and the intention to run in the first direct presidential election in the Czech Republic in February 2012.[8] Together with Jan Fischer, polling showed him to be one of the two strongest candidates in the election.[9] Zeman narrowly won the first round of the elections and went into the second round to face Karel Schwarzenberg, winning by a clearer margin.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] Putna, who carried a controversial banner during the event,[13] 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.[14][15][16][17] "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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

Views[edit]

Zeman has a similar view on global warming as his former opponent Klaus. According to his opinion, human activity probably could not influence global warming.[21]

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.[22]

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."[23]

Zeman has expressed opposition to having an embassy in Kosovo. He has expressed that he is against the recognition of Kosovo as a state, and views it as a terror regime financed by the narcotics mafia.[24][25]

He describes himself as a "tolerant atheist".[26]

Criticism and controversies[edit]

The political career of Miloš Zeman is associated with several 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.[27]

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.[28]

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.[29] 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."[30] 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.[31]

Miloš Zeman (right) and Miroslava Němcová, former Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic (May, 2013). In June, 2013, the Civic Democratic Party (the leading party of the parliamentary coalition government) nominated her for the post of the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic; however, Zeman refused to appoint her and instead chose his long-time ally and friend Jiří Rusnok.

In 2002 German chancellor Gerhard Schröder canceled his official visit to Prague after Zeman had called the ethnic Germans in pre-war Czechoslovakia "Hitler's Fifth column".[32] 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".[33] Zeman also called his rival in the presidential campaign of 2013 a "sudeťák" [Sudeten German].[34] Thus the Austrian Die Presse ascribed Zeman's victory to an "unprecedented anti-German dirty campaign."[35]

In May 26, 2014, in the occasion of festivities for the independence of Israel, he 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."[36] 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."[37] 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."[38]

Personal life[edit]

Miloš Zeman (right) and his wife, Ivana Zemanová

In the 1970s, Zeman was married to Blanka Zemanová; the couple divorced in 1978.[39] In 1993, he married his assistant Ivana Bednarčíková[40] (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 informally asked her to be his "informal First Lady", as his wife is allegedly shy and doesn't like the attention of media.[41]

State Awards[edit]

Country Awards Date
 Czech Republic Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion[42] March 7, 2013 (ex officio)
 Czech Republic Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk[42] March 7, 2013 (ex officio)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Čižmár, Rastislav Tercius (13 December 2012). "Miloš Zeman: Jsem tolerantní ateista" (in Czech/Slovak). Křesťan Dnes. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Miloš Zeman". novinky.cz. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Wirnitzer, Jan (3 January 2013). "Neuděloval bych ani milosti, ani amnestie, napsal čtenářům Zeman". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  4. ^ ""Jistý prognostik" si dovolil kritizovat komunistické hospodářství" (in Czech). Czech Television. 3 August 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Miloš Zeman" (in Czech). novinky.cz. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  6. ^ "Zeman ukončil členství v ČSSD kvůli kauze Altner". Hospodářské noviny (in Czech). 21 March 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Zeman míří zpátky do politiky. Ve volbách nastoupí proti Paroubkovi". Lidové noviny (in Czech). lidovky.cz. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Miloš Zeman: Sežeňte podpisy a pokusím se znovu o Hrad" (in Czech). aktuálně.cz. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "Fischer, Zeman favourites of Czech presidential election – poll". ČTK. 27 August 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Wirnitzer, Jan. "Rozhodnuto. Zeman vyhrál, nezmění to už ani velká města". Mladá fronta DNES. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Fisher, Max (13 May 2013). "Video of Czech president staggering through ceremony has many wondering if he was drunk". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  12. ^ Bacchi, Umberto (20 May 2013). "Czech Gay Pride Row Flares over President Milos Zeman's Snub of University Appointment". International Business Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  13. ^ The banner in question mocked the ultra-conservative politician Ladislav Bátora by stating: "Katolické buzny zdraví Bátoru" (in English: "Catholic fags salute Bátora")
  14. ^ Lopatka, Jan (8 July 2013). "Czech president angers parties with power grab". Reuters. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  15. ^ Cameron, Rob (10 July 2013). "Jiri Rusnok, new Czech PM, faces instant opposition". BBC. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Bilefsky, Dan (10 July 2013). "Czech Leader Swears In Interim Government". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Zeman's coup". The Economist (blog). 26 June 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  18. ^ "Nenechte se otrávit závistivými hlupáky, popřál Zeman nové vládě". Lidové noviny (in Czech). lidovky.cz. 10 July 2013. Retrieved 22 July 2013.  ("Nenechte se otrávit mediální kritikou závistivých hlupáků, kteří nikdy nic sami nedokázali")
  19. ^ "Sobotka´s rival Hasek leaves Czech Social Democrat leadership". ČTK. České noviny. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  20. ^ "Czech leader says NATO could offer troops to Ukraine if Russia goes beyond Crimea" 6 Apr 2014
  21. ^ Wirnitzer, Jan (22 August 2012). "Fanatici, sepsul Klaus "oteplovače". A dočkal se uznání od klimatologa". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  22. ^ Former Czech PM sued over statements on Islam, 8 July 2011.
  23. ^ "Zeman: Madlenka Albrightová to slíbila a nedodržela. Nemám ji rád" (in Czech). Parlamentní Listy. 1 November 2012. 
  24. ^ "Zeman: Vládu s podílem KSČM jmenuji, přejí-li si to voliči". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). 4 November 2012. 
  25. ^ "Zeman: Kosovo teroristički režim" (in Serbian). Blic. 23 January 2013. 
  26. ^ "Miloš Zeman: I am a tolerant atheist" (in Czech/Slovak). Křesťan Dnes. 
  27. ^ "Vyšetřovatelé v kauze Bamberg potvrdili dva roky jasnou věc". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). 20 January 2000. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  28. ^ Slonková, Sabina (5 February 2009). "Stát chce prodat zámek Štiřín. Cena 100 milionů" (in Czech). aktuálně.cz. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  29. ^ Šťastný, Ondřej; Syrovátka, Tomáš (8 October 2008). "Šlouf financuje návrat Zemana do politiky. Odkud bere peníze?". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  30. ^ Bilefsky, Dan (26 January 2013). "Former Prime Minister Is Elected President of Czech Republic". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  31. ^ "Zemanovu stranu sponzoruje jednatel z ruského Lukoilu" (in Czech). Czech Television. 18 January 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  32. ^ "Former premier elected Czech Republic's new president, replaces Euro-skeptic Vaclav Klaus". The Washington Post. 31 January 2013. 
  33. ^ The Myriad Chronicles. 31 January 2013. 
  34. ^ "Zeman a Schwarzenberg se střetli v druhé televizní debatě. Lehčí tón střídaly tvrdé útoky". Hospodářské noviny (in Czech). 18 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  35. ^ "Czechs wasting chance to change policy – German Handelsblatt". České noviny. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  36. ^ Pokorný, Jakub (27 May 2014). "Zeman citoval islámské proroctví. Nešťastné, soudí orientalista". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). iDNES. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  37. ^ Stonišová, Tereza (28 May 2014). "Zeman o bruselských vraždách: Může za to islám" (in Czech). Reflex. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  38. ^ "Zeman will not apologize for statements on Islam". Prague Post (originally Czech News Agency). 10 June 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  39. ^ Pospíšilová, Eva (25 September 2012). "Našli jsme utajovanou první manželku Miloše Zemana!". Blesk (in Czech). Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  40. ^ Zídek, Petr (26 January 2012). "Ivana Zemanová: Hospodyně ve stínu premiéra". Lidové noviny (in Czech). lidovky.cz. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  41. ^ "Kateřina Zemanová: Největší prezidentova chlouba" (in Czech). doma.nova.cz. 26 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  42. ^ a b Kopecký, Josef (6 March 2013). "Zeman bude skládat slib a v průvodu ponesou ústavu i vyznamenání". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). iDnes. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Jiří Horák
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
1993–2001
Succeeded by
Vladimír Špidla
Political offices
Preceded by
Milan Uhde
Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies
1996–1998
Succeeded by
Václav Klaus
Preceded by
Josef Tošovský
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic
1998–2002
Succeeded by
Vladimír Špidla
Preceded by
Václav Klaus
President of the Czech Republic
2013–present
Incumbent