Thursday, 17 April 2014

Presidential candidates clash in TV duel

ČTK |
18 January 2013

Prague, Jan 17 (CTK) - President Vaclav Klaus's New Year amnesty and yesterday's no-confidence vote in the government were on the agenda of the first televised duel of Czech presidential candidates Milos Zeman ((Party of Citizens' Rights, SPOZ) and Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) this evening.

Zeman and Schwarzenberg gained 24.2 and 23.4 percent of the vote, respectively, in the first round of the direct presidential election on January 11-12.

They will contest the run-off on January 25-26.

At the beginning, former prime minister Zeman criticised Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg for either paying no interest to the content of the amnesty or for not speaking the truth on it.

Schwarzenberg dismissed the allegation, arguing that government members had not been informed about the extent of the amnesty.

He criticised this during the debate in the Chamber of Deputies session called by the opposition in order to vote no-confidence in the government. The government survived the vote.

Within the general amnesty, Klaus ordered that all criminal proceedings taking over eight years and carrying less than ten years in prison be halted.

The decision has caused a public outcry as the prosecution of a number of fraud cases with the damage of billions of crowns falls under the amnesty.

Schwarzenberg did not take part in the vote that took place during the debate and was lost by the opposition.

Zeman said if he were elected after Klaus, whose term expires in March, as a leftist candidate he would criticise the steps taken by the coalition government of Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democratic Party, ODS).

"I would not use the expression 'destabilise," Zeman said.

Zeman said he would not attend a no-confidence vote in the lower house, but would voice his view to its members before such a major step.

Schwarzenberg said if elected, he would behave as a non-partisan president, while the no-confidence vote was an affair of the Chamber of Deputies.

Turning to the further existence of the Senate, Zeman repeated his view that the upper house of parliament should be transformed into a body representing regional political interests.

($1=19.270 crowns)

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