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Zeman occupies nearly all supreme Czech political posts

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Prague, March 7 (CTK) – Brief profile of Czech President Milos Zeman, 72, who will announce at a meeting of his supporters on March 9 whether he will be defending his post in the presidential election due in early 2018:
Place and date of birth: Kolin, central Bohemia, September 28, 1944.
Education: graduated from the Prague School of Economics (VSE), majoring in economic planning.
Professional career: lectured at the VSE (1969-70), worked in Sportpropag company (1971-84) and in Agrodat agricultural company in 1984, researcher at the Forecasting Institute of the Academy of Sciences in Prague (1990-93); he has been active in politics since the 1990s; retired in 2002.
Party membership: member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC) in 1968-1970, member of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) in 1992-2007, CSSD chairman in 1993-2002, in 2010 chairman of the Party of Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites (SPOZ), now its honorary chairman. The party shortened its official name to the Party of Citizens’ Rights (SPO) later on.
Political career: he has occupied supreme political posts in the country; was deputy of Federal Assembly (1990-92) for the Civic Forum (OF), later for the Civic Movement (OH). In 1992, member of the deputy group of Social Democrat orientation and later for Social Democrats (CSSD) in the Chamber of Deputies (1996-2002), chairman of the Chamber of Deputies (1996-98) and prime minister (1998-2002); on January 26, 2013 elected Czech president and on March 8, 2013 inaugurated in the presidential office.
Family: married for the second time, has son David (1972) by first marriage (1971-78) and daughter Katerina (1994) by his second marriage (since 1993); after retirement, Zeman primarily lived in his country house in Nove Veseli in Vysocina (Bohemian-Moravian Highlands), while his wife and daughter stayed in Prague.
– Along with the late former president Vaclav Havel and his successor Vaclav Klaus, Zeman is one of the three most distinctive Czech politicians after the fall of the communist regime who influenced the developments in the country the most.
– Under his nine-year leadership, the CSSD became one of the strongest parties in the country.
– Though he announced his definitive departure from politics in 2001, he ran for president unsuccessfully in 2003 (not even all Social Democrats voted for him in the secret vote and he called them traitors); in 2010 he failed in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies as chairman of the new party SPOZ.
– During his political career, he was a resolute opposition leader who sharply attacked the government coalition. His arsenal included vulgar offences and controversial accusations and mockery of his opponents. He often made promises that were never fulfilled.
– After the CSSD headed by him won the general election in 1998, he signed a power-sharing pact, called “the opposition agreement,” with his major rival, opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) led by Klaus, under which the ODS kept the CSSD minority government afloat in exchange for influential public posts.
Zeman’s cabinet (1998-2002) has been assessed differently. Zeman and his followers highlight the economic growth in the period, calling the government the best after the overthrow of the communist regime in 1989. Critics say it was a government of unfulfilled promises and wasted opportunities.
– Zeman’s government had a budget deficit throughout its four-year tenure. Besides, it sent revenues from privatisation to the budget, having sold the state shares in the companies Transgas, Mostecka uhelna, Ceska sporitelna, CSOB, Ceske radiokomunikace and Komercni banka (KB).
– When heading the CSSD, Zeman was embroiled in a number of scandals. He took part in the negotiations with Czech-Swiss businesspeople on a loan for the CSSD in exchange for their influencing the economic developments in the Czech Republic after the party’s presumed election victory (“Bamberg Scandal”). Zeman used fake documents that were to discredit the Security Information Service (BIS) and the Interior Ministry (“Zeman’s Suitcase”). His assistants collected compromising material on his party rival Petra Buzkova (“Lead Scandal”).
– After Zeman withdrew from politics, speculations regularly emerged about his return. Zeman himself provoked them since he often commented on the situation in the CSSD and was meeting journalists, fellow party members, foreign politicians and diplomats in his country house.
– He left the CSSD in the spring of 2007 after he clashed with then party chairman Jiri Paroubek whose political style he repeatedly criticised. Paroubek said Zeman was responsible for the case with lawyer Zdenek Altner who demanded hundreds of millions of crowns for representing the CSSD in a dispute over its headquarters in the Prague centre.
– The Friends of Milos Zeman association, established in 2008, aimed to bring Zeman back to active politics. Lobbyist and former Communist apparatchik Miroslav Slouf was behind the grouping, but Zeman ended his relations with him after he became president.
– Zeman won the second round of the first direct presidential election held on January 25-26, 2013, receiving 54.8 percent of the vote and having defeated former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09; 45.2 percent).
($1=25.506 crowns)

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