Is Czech President Zeman’s Health a Threat to his Re-election?

Prague, Nov 18 (CTK) – The health condition of Czech President Milos Zeman, 73, who will seek re-election, may become one of the topics of the campaign before the January presidential election, marketing experts have told CTK.


Though the other candidates may be reluctant to open this sensitive issue, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek made it public by refuting the information on the Facebook status of Brno local politician Svatopluk Bartik saying Zeman suffered from cancer, the analysts agreed.


Ovcacek has highlighted this issue in media by sharing the statement and medialising the subsequent legal complaint against Bartik, in which the Presidential Office demands an apology and five million crowns in compensation, Karel Kominek, head of the Political Marketing Institute, said.


Now, other politicians will have to take a stand on it, too, he said.


Martin Joachymstal, consultant for political marketing, is of the view that most of Zeman’s rival candidates will refuse to highlight his health since it is a private and sensitive issue.


So far, only Mirek Topolanek, former Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman and ex-PM, has used this by sharing his photograph from a march against diabetes (from which Zeman suffers), Joachymstal said. Topolanek did so shortly after Zeman told journalists that “his diabetes left him.”


The Presidential Office is doing the right thing by repeatedly denying the speculations about Zeman’s health troubles, Joachymstal said.


“Nevertheless, I suppose that if Milos Zeman appears somewhere and people have a feeling that he is not in a very good condition, they may wish him to have a rest and not execute the post any more out of goodwill,” he said.


Some of Zeman’s voters may vote for someone else for fear of his health, Kominek added.


He pointed out that the debate about the health of presidential candidates is a strong part of the campaign in the United States as the U.S. president is the commander of armed forces who has “a nuclear briefcase” in his hands.


There has not been a long tradition of a direct presidential election in the Czech Republic where Zeman is the first president to be elected directly in 2013. The upcoming election will be the first in which health will plsy an important role, Kominek said.


Zeman made an impression of suffering from health troubles at a number of public events of late. He also lost weight apparently.


After announcing his candidacy in March, Zeman said he had undergone a medical check-up confirming he suffered from diabetes and polyfunctional neuropathy impairing the sensitivity of his feet. He underwent a CT examination in September that did not reveal any new problem.


Zeman called the reports on his health troubles “a dirty campaign of some media.”


Zeman continues touring the regions.


Analysts say his public rallies fulfil the conditions of a face-to-face election campaign. According to them, Zeman can now hardly defend his statement he is not leading any campaign.


Joachymstal pointed to a book of interviews with Zeman promoted on billboards, while Kominek mentioned his tours of regions. “The fact that Zeman did so before the campaign was launched does not mean that what he is doing now is no campaign,” Kominek said.