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Zeman wants broader powers for directly elected Czech president

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Prague, Oct 5 (CTK) – A directly elected Czech president should have broader powers, such as the right to submit bills to parliament, a stronger veto that is harder to override for MPs, and more decisions without the prime minister’s countersigning, President Milos Zeman told commercial TV Barrandov Thursday.

Later on, the president should have a say in the selection of ministers and have the right to dismiss them or refuse to appoint them, he said.

Zeman is the first head of state who was elected directly. He will be defending his post in the election due next January, being one of the favourites.

Zeman said the strong mandate from voters should be adequately balanced with the broadening of the presidential powers.

Politicians who are against the broader powers envy the support that the president won in the direct election, he said.

Zeman said the president should again have the right to submit bills to parliament.

The president lost this power in 1993. Zeman proposed this idea already last March.

Zeman said he would submit his bills through given MPs in the next election period if he is re-elected.

At present, a majority of 101 votes in the 200-seat lower house of parliament is needed to outvote the presidential veto. Zeman said the minimum number of votes for override a veto should be 120.

A prime minister’s signature should not be needed for some presidential decisions to take effect, such as the granting of state decorations, Zeman said.

The role of president in the Czech political system is rather formal, although he has substantial influence on the selection of ambassadors and the forming of a new government, among others. The government and parliament is the decisive executive power.

Casting one’s vote should be compulsory for citizens and voters should be allowed to form their own lists of candidates across the political spectrum in the general and regional elections, not only in the local ones, Zeman said previously.

An opinion poll carried out earlier this year showed that most Czechs believe that present powers of the president should remain unchanged.

A possible narrowing of the presidential powers has been discussed on the Czech scene since mid-2013 when Zeman appointed a caretaker cabinet at variance with the will of a majority of parties in parliament. Zeman was criticised for trying to replace parliamentary democracy with a semi-presidential system in the last few years.

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