Monday, 20 November 2017

Presidential candidates meet in first debate, without Zeman

ČTK |
9 November 2017

Prague, Nov 8 (CTK) - Seven candidates for the head of the Czech state had their first debate before a full auditorium at Law Faculty of Charles University Wednesday evening, one day after the expiry of the deadline for candidates to get registered and two months before the direct presidential election.

The participants in the debate were Science Academy former head Jiri Drahos, former prime minister Mirek Topolanek, entrepreneur Michal Horacek, activist Marek Hilser, arms official Jiri Hynek, former diplomat Pavel Fischer and marginal party's head Petr Hannig.

The seat for incumbent President Milos Zeman, who seeks re-election and who was also invited, remained vacant. Zeman is the election's favourite and he is expected to advance to the runoff election. The question seems to be whom he will meet in the second round. Opinion polls indicates that Drahos, a man without any previous experience from top politics, would have the biggest change to defeat Zeman in the runoff.

Zeman claimed previously that he was not going to wage any campaign before the direct election, indicating that he would not meet his rivals in any debates. However, he is interviewed by a commercial TV station once a week, he is busy visiting all parts of the country, and citizens received a leaflet promoting his candidacy in their mail.

All seven candidates agreed that the Prague Castle should continue to be the seat of the Czech president, and they differed in their opinions on whether key decisions should be made by national referendums.

The strongest promoter of the general referendum bill is Tomio Okamura, leader of Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), an anti-EU and anti-Islam movement that ended fourth in the recent election, having 22 MPs in the 200-member lower house of parliament. The Pirates, also with 22 MPs, and President Zeman supported the idea, too. The opponents of the referendum bill fear that it could lead to the country's departure from the European Union.

Probable next prime minister Andrej Babis (ANO) was among the audience on Wednesday.

The candidates were asked whether they would entrust Babis with trying to form a new government again if he failed in his present first attempt to do so.

ANO clearly won the elections, gaining 78 MPs, three time more than the Civic Democrats (ODS) who followed second. After one round of post election negotiations, Babis said he would form a minority cabinet since no other democratic party was willing to become ANO's government partner. A minority cabinet still needs to win a majority support from parliament, however.

Zeman assigned Babis with forming the government and he said previously he would assign Babis again in case of the failure of the first government-forming attempt.

The candidates were not so ready to assign Babis for a second time, they said on Wednesday.

Drahos said he would like the election winner to prove that he gained a majority support from the lower house of parliament.

Topolanek said he would assign a politician who would gain a reasonable majority without depending on non-system parties.

By non-system parties Topolanek very probably meant the SPD and the Communists (KSCM).

Topolanek also said the next president should give people hope because Czechs consider the president something like a father of the nation or God and expect him to solve all their problems.

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