A Czech Senate commission has approved the redistribution of President Milos Zeman’s duties to a number of other top officials. After his ally and Prime Minister Andrej Babis lost the election, he was taken to hospital.
According to Zeman, he is still at the Central Military Hospital but is unable to perform his most ceremonial duties. The timing of his illness was not ideal, which raises questions about the future succession of power. President is responsible for selecting the leader of the new national government.
The Senate Constitution Committee passed Tuesday a resolution that would allow Zeman to be stripped of his power. Since the 77-year-old is expected to take weeks to recuperate, members recommended activating Article 66 of the constitution to redistribute the president’s authority, chairman Zdenek Hraba said in a public address.
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Hraba also lashed out at the head of the president’s chancellorship, Vratislav Mynar, saying he should resign after bringing “disgrace”Mismanaging the crisis in health can lead to a deterioration of leadership and national security.
Calls for Mynar’s resignation had earlier come from Prime Minister Babis and from his likely successor, Petr Fiala. The opposition politician led a coalition of parties to upset the ruling ANO party in this month’s election of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech parliament.
Each chamber will need to pass resolutions to authorize the presidential transfer, and a vote is expected in the Senate on November 5. The country’s constitutional court may overrule their decision. Mynar previously described disempowerment attempts as “hypocritical.”
Since 2013, Zeman is the Czech Republic’s president. He was last elected in 2018. His duties, if stripped of their power, would be divided between Zeman and the heads of the respective chambers.
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Some of these powers such as the power to pardon inmates and the ability to raise officers to the rank general would remain intact. Michal Koudelka (head of BIS Czech Security Service) may be able to finish his term without any military rank. He was nominated to become a general in 2018, but Zeman repeatedly blocked the promotion, reportedly because of Koudelka’s hostility towards Russia and China.
Babis earlier said he was in no rush to assume part of Zeman’s duties, arguing that he won’t be called to launch formal coalition talks before the new Chamber of Deputies is sworn in sometime in December. If the president is relieved, Babis will be the Czech Republic’s commander-in-chief and will be in charge of ambassadors, awarding state honors, appointing judges, and will have the power to announce an amnesty.
Radek vondracek (an ANO politician who heads the Chamber of Deputies) will receive most of the presidential powers remaining, including the power to appoint an additional government and to call an election to the Senate. Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil, who belongs to Fiala’s ODS party, will have the power to announce a new election for the lower chamber of parliament.
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