Prague, March 8 (CTK) – Milos Zeman has been sworn in for his second and final term as Czech president at a joint meeting of the two houses of parliament in which also cabinet ministers and a part of regional governors participated at Prague Castle on Thursday.
Zeman, 73, defended his post in the direct election held in January. He defeated academic Jiri Drahos in the runoff election. His second term of office will last until 2023.
Zeman arrived at Prague Castle, the presidential seat, together with his wife Ivana, daughter Katerina and the head of his office, Vratislav Mynar.
In his inauguration speech, he assessed his work in the presidential post in the last five years. He said he visited all parts of the country and talked to common people, and proposed and appointed the missing judges of the Constitutional Court and the missing members of the central bank.
A part of right-wing politicians left the room during the speech after Zeman sharply criticised entrepreneur Zdenek Bakala, accused him of extensive economic crime related to the OKD coal mining firm and denounced the media owned by Bakala that are critical of him, naming the weekly Respekt, the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) and the Aktualne.cz news server.
Zeman said the time of huge economic crime will not be over unless the OKD case is dealt with. He said he asked the justice minister and state attorney about the case, but their replies were unconvincing.
He said the public should have no respect for the journalists paid by Bakala and it should not take them seriously.
Zeman also said the public Czech Television (CT) was biased and under the influence of the right-wing opposition TOP 09 party. He also criticised some nongovernmental organisations.
Among those who left the room were former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg and former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek (both TOP 09), TOP 09 chairman Jiri Pospisil, former parliament chairwoman Miroslava Nemcova (Civic Democrats, ODS), Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) deputy head Marian Jurecka and senator Vaclav Chaloupek (Mayors and Independents, STAN).
After the general election held last autumn, the four centrist and right-wing parties occupy only one fourth of the seats in the lower house of parliament.
“It is sad that Zeman cannot refrain from attacks on those who have different opinions even during a ceremonial state event. I would expect a speech of a statesman, not attacks against journalists and media,” Pospisil tweeted.
Observers criticise Zeman for dividing society and some expect him to become even more radical in this during his final term.
In his half-an-hour speech today, Zeman called for direct elections of mayors and regional governors, and an active participation of citizens in public affairs.
He said a number of people received state decorations from him. The selection of the awarded personalities were criticised by those who were not awarded because they did not achieve anything for which they could be awarded, he claimed.
Zeman said he believes he contributed to the progress in Czech economic diplomacy and that he had many meetings with ordinary people in all parts of the country.
Zeman swore the oath in front of Senate chairman Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD). He did not put his hand on a copy of the Czech constitution, which Stech asked him to do, CT reported.
Compared to the ceremony held five years ago, the event was less demanding for Zeman who has problems to walk. Zeman arrived alone in 2013, while his wife held his hand now. No military parade was held, unlike during the previous ceremony. Zeman also did not bow his head to the statue of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the country’s first president, in one of the Prague Castle courtyards. He paid respect to Masaryk already on Wednesday, at his grave in Lany near Prague.
After the inauguration ceremony, Zeman bowed to the relics of Wenceslas, patron saint of the Czech state.