Sunday, 20 April 2014

Zeman, Schwarzenberg meet in last TV duel

ČTK |
25 January 2013

Prague, Jan 24 (CTK) - Czech presidential candidates Milos Zeman and Karel Schwarzenberg met in their last television duel last night before the two-day direct election that starts on Friday afternoon.

Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) said in the debate broadcast live by the public Czech Television (CT) that his statements on the postwar Benes Decrees were distorted in the election campaign.

Former socialist prime minister Zeman (Party of Citizens' Rights, SPOZ) said Schwarzenberg's words about the Benes Decrees were welcomed by some circles in Austria and Germany and that they worsened the Czech-Slovak relations.

Zeman said previously that Berndt Posselt, former head of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft, appreciated Schwarzenberg's attitudes.

But Posselt dismissed this. He told CT that he did not make any comment on the Czech presidential campaign.

Zeman said in reaction that he read Posselt's statement from Sueddutsche Zeitung in the Czech online daily Britske listy.

Britske listy wrote it did not mention Posselt, however.

Schwarzenberg and Zeman were asked to comment on the recent promise by Prime Minister David Cameron that Britain would declare a referendum on its EU membership after British elections in 2015.

Both candidates said Britain should stay part of the European Union.

Zeman said he as president would try to negotiate with Britain and make it change its mind. Schwarzenberg, current foreign minister, said he would discuss the British demands, which seemed clearly stated in Cameron's speech.

Both Zeman and Schwarzenberg also said they would not influence the selection of judges whom they approve. They agreed that the authority of the Constitutional Court (US) should not be challenged.

Zeman praised the work of US chairman Pavel Rychetsky. He said he would like Rychetsky to head the US for another term. Rychetsky's mandate will expire in August.

Both candidates said the gap dividing Czech society in various camps based on their opinions should be bridged.

Zeman said he as president would initiate a discussion between parliamentary parties. Schwarzenberg said he would not be connected with any party if he were president.

Schwarzenberg said he as TOP 09 chairman has no influence on the selection of culture minister as the Mayors and Independents (STAN), allied with TOP 09, choose who will occupy the post.

Culture Minister Alena Hanakova has been repeatedly criticised for her performance.

Zeman, former Social Democrat (CSSD) leader, said he had nothing to do with a compromising campaign against Petra Buzkova from 2000. Buzkova was a popular CSSD politician then.

According to Czech media, a person close to then PM Zeman produced the materials discrediting Buzkova. Buzkova belonged to a group in the CSSD that was critical of Zeman.

Zeman pointed out that the police investigation was shelved.

The Zeman-Schwarzenberg television duels were watched by a high number of people. Those who wanted to watch last night's last duel on the CT website were unlucky because the website was not functioning temporarily.

The polling stations will open on Friday at 14:00. The winner of the two-day election will be announced on Saturday afternoon.

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