>Czech presidential election: Boredom in Bohemia, but Klaus edges ahead

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The day of the Czech presidential elections is at last upon us. Naturally, I tune in to ČT24, the Czech CNN, bright and early to listen the joint session of the Czech parliament that is to elect the President. The speechifying takes till lunchtime. Klaus says he offers continuity and stability and also throws a blatant pitch for Christian Democrat votes stressing the need for a social dimension in politics and his opposition to euthanasia and political correctness. Švejnar that he offers change, consultation and consensus – a new Technicolor vision for Czech politics – but is moderate and sensible and doesn’t want anyone to be left behind (Interesting and revealing how two such economic liberals need to play to the ‘social’ orientation of the majority even in parliament).

Then various leading Czech politicos take the floor. It‘s generally rather predictable stuff. Civic Democrat leader Topolánek gives Klaus a ringing endorsement – VK is, love him or hate him, is not bland and boring and is a Czech patriot. There are some surprisingly effective speeches by Green leader Martin Bursík and Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek. Despite strong personal animosity and being on opposite sides of the political divide – Bursík’s liberal-minded Greens are in coalition with the centre-right Civic Democrat party Klaus founded – both accuse him of transforming the presidency into a personal vehicle; failing to consult the government on key decisions; carrying out a personal foreign policy; and discrediting the country with extreme and eccentric views on climate change and European integration. Klaus walks out when independent Senator and ex-student leader of 1989 Martin Mejstřik starts laying into him, although given Mejstřik’s awkward hyperbole and irritating use of Latin proverbs in every other sentence, who can blame him?

Then we get to voting proper – sort of. In the best Czech traditions, deputies and senators actually spend the next nine hours trying to agree procedural questions – whether they will vote in a secret ballot or openly, and how they should decide that (jointly or as seprate chambers). Finally, as evening wears on, they find a compromise and agree to vote in public. In round 1, Klaus is narrowly ahead (139: 138), but no one wins in both chambers of parliament. Round 2 takes place, but parliamentarians vote to finish the session at 9pm and re-convene tomorrow. The Social Democrats block Civic Democrat efforts to extend the session – presumably they want a breathing space to Officially, the results will be announced tomorrow, but unofficially we know Klaus is ahead by 142: 135.

If repeated in the third round, he’s re-elected by 1 vote. Combined the Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats have 140 parliamentarians, so they need – and seem already to have gained the support of 2 non-aligned senators or deputies. The anti-Klaus parties – Social Democrats, Communists, Greens and various small liberal groups in the Senate – have perhaps 125-130 definite votes.

Klaus’s stock on, the OpenDemocracy virtual political futures market on the Czech presidential election has now risen to a commanding 79%.

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