Can Zeman Still Deliver in Debates?

Prague, (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman, who will fight for presidency with academic Jiri Drahos on January 26-27, is no longer the tough guy who was winning television debates like five years ago, Ondrej Leinert writes in daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) today.


After five years in office, it seems that Zeman got older by 15 at first sight. Moreover, as head of state, he has not faced a really hard discussion since people from his surrounding are doing their utmost to prevent him from unpleasant opinions. As a consequence, Zeman lacks self-reflection, which is now his disadvantage before the presidential runoff.


If opinion polls had not shown that Zeman may not win the second round after all, he would have kept leading “his zero campaign” and have not decided to attend TV duels with his rival, Science Academy former chairman Drahos, Leinert writes.


He says Drahos should make a compromise and agree to take part in three TV debates with Zeman, instead of only two he insists on, while Zeman has promised to go to four.


Though Zeman has certainly prepared more bon mots and puns for the debates, he is no longer such an “ace” who dominated the scene like five years ago. “If he is attending one debate after another, his aura may soon burn out,” Leinert concludes in MfD.


A dirty part of the election campaign before the second round of the presidential election has started, Martin Zverina writes in Lidove noviny (LN) today.


While in 2013, before the second round of the first direct presidential election, Zeman accused his rival, former foreign minister and TOP 09 head Karel Schwarzenberg, of his effort to return the confiscated property to Sudeten Germans transferred from the country after WWII, now Zeman and his aides attempt to present Jiri Drahos as a man welcoming migrants, Zverina writes.


There is no relevant political force in the Czech Republic supporting the refugees’ inflow and all politicians agree on the opposition to the Eu refugee quotas. Consequently, a presidential candidate advocating excessive migration would have no chance to succeed.


It is true that in 2015 Drahos actually signed the petition saying that “safety and decent treatment should be secured to all people who are looking for shelter in Europe.”


Now, Zeman’s followers may admit that Drahos has the right to change his view of migration, while at the same time, criticise his lack of firm principles, Zverina says.


“Yet we all know it very well that only an idiot is not changing his opinions,” Zverina concludes, hinting at one of Zeman’s well-known bon mots.


Serious talks between ANO of PM Andrej Babis and other parties in parliament on a government to rule with the Chamber of Deputies’ confidence have started now only, three months after the general election, Lukas Jelinek writes in Pravo today, asking how much Babis is willing to offer to reach his goal.


Babis said he would hurry up to form his second cabinet, though President Milos Zeman promised to give him enough time for talks. However, Babis might fear that Zeman will not defend his post in a week, while his rival Jiri Drahos would not prefer a solution to the political crisis advantageous for ANO, Jelinek points out.


Under these circumstances, the other parties “courting the government participation” have a chance to achieve a lot during the talks, for instance, to push through their key programme priorities.


Besides, as most parties refuse to enter a cabinet headed by a prosecuted man, Babis even mentioned that he would give up the PM’s post and that ANO deputy chairman and current environment minister Richard Brabec could replace him.


The game is very thrilling. If ANO really gives in in the case of Babis at the government’s helm, it may also gain a lot as Brabec’s style is different from that of Babis in a positive manner.


Brabec’s opinion that a government in resignation should not take crucial steps, which differs from Babis’s stance, indicates that ANO can in the future attract voters even by “their internal plurality,” though possibly fictitious, Jelinek concludes.