Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Reflex: Zeman to win election if Fischer keeps neutral

18 January 2013

Prague, Jan 17 (CTK) - Unsuccessful candidate Jan Fischer's stand is decisive in the Czech presidential polls because his mere neutrality would help Milos Zeman win the run-off vote, while the rival candidate, Karel Schwarzenberg, would need his explicit support to win, Bohumil Pecinka says in weekly Reflex.

Fischer, former head of the interim cabinet of unaffiliated experts, was widely viewed as a favourite of the two-round direct presidential polls, along with Zeman, former socialist prime minister now running for the minor leftist party SPOZ. However, he was surprisingly defeated not only by Zeman but also by Schwarzenberg (conservative TOP 09) in first round, ending third himself.

The expectation that Fischer will be mainly supported by centrist and right-wing voters in bigger towns was wrong. The first round's results showed that he gained the biggest support in typically "communist" areas such as Tachov, west Bohemia, and Chomutov, north Bohemia, and from elderly residents of smaller towns, i.e. the electorate coinciding with that of the opposition Communists (KSCM) and Social Democrats (CSSD), Pecinka writes.

If Fischer previously enjoyed support of some right-wing voters, including those of the senior ruling Civic Democratic Party (ODS), he definitely lost it before last weekend's first election round for the benefit of Schwarzenberg. What does this mean for the Zeman-Schwarzenberg run-off duel scheduled for January 25-26? Pecinka asks.

If the first round's result was decided on by potential supporters of the ODS who - finding the ODS's official candidate Premysl Sobotka unacceptable - preferred casting their votes for Schwarzenberg rather than Fischer, the second round will be surely decided on by supporters of Fischer, Pecinka writes.

In the forthcoming campaign, the camps of Zeman and Schwarzenberg will struggle for winning the favour of those who voted for Fischer in the first round, Pecinka writes.

The struggle started immediately after the polling stations closed after the first round on Saturday when journalists asked Fischer which of his successful rivals he would support.

Fischer nervously kept silent. Behind the scenes, both victorious camps tried to reach him by phone. Afterwards, a fake report about Fischer supporting Schwarzenberg appeared on the Internet. It was withdrawn only a few hours later, Pecinka writes.

In short, Zeman would be sure of victory even if Fischer remained neutral. Schwarzenberg, on his part, needs Fischer's active support in order to prevent the switch of Fischer's supporters to Zeman, Pecinka writes.

Though no one expected it, Fischer remains the decisive factor of the presidential election, Pecinka points out.

In the first few days of 2013, the Czech scene experienced "a poorly-concealed media coup" and a subsequent giant wave of pro-Schwarzenberg enthusiasm, which spread from Prague to other regions, Pecinka writes.

Its masterminds succeeded in reinterpreting the figure of Schwarzenberg whom they cleaned of all political, lobbyist and economic links and connotations. Karel, how "his creators" labelled him, has become an icon that has nothing in common with his real political and human qualities and views, Pecinka says.

Simultaneously, Schwarzenberg's election team succeeded in totally illegitmising Fischer, who broke down under the pressure of the unilateral campaign he faced. On the one hand, this was all right because election campaigns are also a test of the candidates' firmness and capability of resisting to pressures, Pecinka says.

On the other hand, however, it was a negative precedent as the majority media savoured the delight of being as powerful as to destroy an election candidate in a chosen moment. This will probably become a common practice in the future, Pecinka writes.

The two weeks preceding the first round saw an unseen activism of the media that recommended whom people should vote for. Simultaneously, some artists started asking some [less promising] candidates to withdraw from the polls in order not to thwart the position of Schwarzenberg.

This amounted to classical anti-democratic propaganda aimed to restrict the free political competition, Pecinka writes.

If Zeman were elected president, he would not be able to enjoy the position because the new culture-media world, which has just made an icon of Schwarzenberg, would make his mandate a hell. It would apply its controversial methods to illegitimise him and paralyse his effective performance as president, Pecinka writes.

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