Czechs Elect President | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.02.2003
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Czechs Elect President

After three rounds of voting, the Czech parliament on Friday elected a new president: former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus.


Vaclav Klaus is back in power.

Former right-wing prime minister Vaclav Klaus was elected the new president of the Czech Republic on Friday, ending a crisis in finding a successor to post-Cold War giant Vaclav Havel, the parliamentary speaker said.

Speaker Lubomir Zaoralek said to loud applause from lawmakers that Klaus had received 142 votes, one more than the majority of 141 required in the 281-member joint session of parliament.

His opponent, philosophy professor Jan Sokol who was the candidate of the center-left ruling coalition, had 124 votes in a third round that came after two inconclusive ballots earlier in the day, according to earlier unofficial results.

Lawmakers were trying for the third time since January to choose a president to succeed Vaclav Havel, who stepped down almost four weeks ago and had not yet been replaced.

Klaus got crucial support from previously non-aligned communists while deputies from Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's Social Democrat party defected from the relatively unknown Sokol.

Havel, 66, a key figure in eastern Europe's transition to democracy and a moral force as president in the Czech Republic symbolizing the overcoming of divisive politics, stepped down on

Feb. 2 after serving a maximum allowed two five-year terms, leaving a vacuum behind him.

Blick auf Prag

Prague castle

Analysts said lawmakers meeting in Prague castle were under increased pressure to make a choice as the feeling was that the former communist country should have a president in office if the United States wages war on Iraq.

While the presidency is a largely symbolic post in the NATO member state, the president is commander-in-chief of the eastern European state's armed forces, which have a chemical-biological-nuclear protection unit already deployed in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

Havel had handed over power during the political hiatus to Spidla and lower house of parliament speaker Lubomor Zaoralek.

Czech politicians were faced with the stark reality that if the third election bid had failed, the next step would almost certainly have been to change the constitution to allow for a direct presidential vote, a process that would take at least six months.

This delay would have been complicated by the fact that the Czech Republic is to vote on EU membership in June.

  • Date 28.02.2003
  • Author AFP
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  • Date 28.02.2003
  • Author AFP
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  • Permalink