On Sunday, Czech President Milos Zeman was taken to the hospital. This happened just a day after the country’s parliamentary elections in which Andrej Babis’ party came in second. Zeman played a crucial role in the establishment of a new government.
Although the Czech presidency is mostly ceremonial, the president can choose which political leader will try to form the next government. Zeman had met Babis, a close ally, earlier Sunday. However, the prime minister did not comment on Zeman’s departure from the presidential chateau in Lany near Prague.
The centrist ANO party (Yes) led by Babis, a populist billionaire and leader of the ANO party, narrowly lost Saturday’s Czech Republic election. This could signal the end to the reign of the euroskeptic leader in the European Union nation with 10.7 million inhabitants.
Together, a liberal-conservative coalition of three parties, won 27.8%, beating Babis’ ANO which took 27.1%. A third blow to the populists came when another left-leaning liberal coalition finished third with 15.6%.
The coalition that won 71 seats and its third-place partner 37 seats, had a comfortable majority (108 seats) in the lower house of Parliament. They pledged to work together. Babis’s party won 72 of the 200-seat lower house seats. This is six more than in 2017.
Zeman had earlier said that he would first nominate the leader of the largest party and not the strongest coalition to form the government. Babis would have the chance to try it to find a majority to form his new government.
Zeman could ask him if he fails to form a new government if his current government fails to win a mandatory confidence vote.
This has happened before. The country was left with no deadlines to the president’s actions, and it experienced political instability for a long time from October 2017’s election through July 2017, when Babis’ second Cabinet won the confidence vote.
Analyst Petr Just, Metropolitan University Prague, stated that “It wouldn’t surprise if the election loss wouldn’t become a reality for Babis in the following months.”
This election, however, produced a clear winner unlike 2017. Petr Fiala (leader of Together) and its candidate as prime minister urged Zeman accept the election results.
Fiala stated that the opposition had won a clear majority at the lower house. “The Constitution clearly states that a government requires support from a majority. While we’ll be able to see the steps that President Zeman takes, it is crucial that he does not ignore this.
Zeman made one post-election comment. He congratulated both the election winner as well as all elected legislators.
If Zeman is unable to act because of illness or other reasons the prime minister will be accompanied by the speakers from both houses of parliament to take over his presidency powers. The new speaker of the lower chamber will select the premier if that happens. To elect the speaker and other officials, the parliament must meet within 30 days after the election.
Other election results showed that the anti-migrant and anti–Muslim force in Czech Republic, Freedom and Direct Democracy, which wants the country leave the EU, came fourth with 9.6% support or 20 seats. Another surprise was that the traditional parliamentary parties of Czechoslovakia, the Social Democrats, and the Communists, failed to win seats in the parliament for the first times since 1993’s split.
Prague’s military hospital confirmed that Zeman had been transported there on Sunday. Zeman, who is 77 years old, is a frequent smoker and drinker, and has had diabetes in the past. Zeman has difficulty walking and uses a wheelchair.
“His hospitalization is due to complications associated with the chronic disease,” Dr. Miroslav Zvoral, the clinic’s director, said. He declined to give more details.
Jiri Ovcacek later stated that the president’s current hospital stay doesn’t pose a threat to the country’s post-election negotiations or his constitutional duties. Zeman requested that media monitoring be done on a daily basis, he said.
Zeman was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 14th for what his office later called a planned exam. According to the office, Zeman was not dehydrated nor exhausted. Zeman was discharged after an eight-day stay in hospital, which was his longest.
For similar reasons, he spent four days at the same hospital in 2019.