Miloš Zeman has been sworn in as Czech president in a ceremony at the
Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle. Mr. Zeman is the first directly-elected
head of state in the history of the Czech Republic. After his swearing-in
at a joint session of both chambers of Parliament, the new president
inspected a military parade and attended a brief service in honour of St.
Wenceslas, before having lunch with senior state officials. He was forced
to sign the oath a second time, after the first copy was found to contain
Mr. Zeman, who is 68, has been one of the dominant figures in Czech politics since the fall of Communism. After turning the Social Democrats into a major party in the 1990s, he served as prime minister between 1998 and 2002.
In his inauguration speech, Miloš Zeman repeated a previously expressed intention to represent the “lower 10 million”, meaning all but the country’s elite. Mr. Zeman said his office would serve as a neutral space for dialogue between the parties in parliament, but also other significant organisations, adding that he wished to serve as a mediator, not a judge. He also pledged to fight the mafia, neo-Nazis and sections of the media, which he accused of brain-washing the public.
There has been a mixed reaction from Czech politicians to the president’s inauguration speech. The minister of finance, Miroslav Kalousek of TOP 09, said he was disappointed that the new head of state had made no reference to foreign policy and in particular to the European Union. The Civic Democrats’ Jaroslav Kubera said the president was the only politician who could afford to speak about the media in such a way, while his party colleague Jiří Pospíšil said that while he had not welcomed Mr. Zeman’s attack on the media, he appreciated his promise to serve as a moderator between the political parties. The latter view was also endorsed by Michal Babák of Public Affairs.
Mr. Zeman succeeds Václav Klaus, whose second consecutive five-year term came to an end on Thursday. At midnight, the president’s standard was removed from Prague Castle, the bells of St. Vitus Cathedral were rung and the Castle Guard performed the Czech national anthem. Earlier, Mr. Klaus had said, in his final address to the nation on Czech Television, that he did not plan to be a mere observer of goings on in the country. His presidential career ended on something of a low note, with a marked fall in his popularity ratings following the declaration of a controversial amnesty. A number of rock concerts and other events were held to celebrate his departure.
Prague’s National Museum will this weekend exhibit the diplomas of Czechoslovakia’s first three presidents, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Edvard Beneš and Emil Hácha. The historical parchment documents – which officially informed each president of his election – will be on show on Saturday and Sunday at the usually inaccessible Presidential Salon at the museum’s Vítkov National Memorial building.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic rose to 8.1 percent in February, up from 8.0 percent in January. According to figures released on Friday, 593,000 Czechs were out of work last month. The unemployment rate in the capital Prague reached 4.6 percent. The Czech economy is at present going through its longest recession on record.
Eva Jiřičná has been awarded the 2013 Jane Drew Prize for her outstanding contribution to the status of women in architecture. The jury described the Prague-born architect as incredibly influential and extraordinary, saying she had reinvented the idea of retail in the UK with her 1988 store for the fashion label Joseph. The architect, who is 74, set up Eva Jiřičná Architects in 1982; her clients have included such names as London’s Selfridges and The Royal Academy of Arts.
Viktoria Plzeň were beaten 1:0 at home by the Turkish side Fenerbache in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie on Thursday night, ending a nine-match unbeaten home run. Plzeň rarely threatened Fenerbache’s goal and the only strike of the game came from the latter’s Pierre Webo ten minutes from full-time. Plzeň, the last remaining Czech club in European competition, travel to Istanbul for the second leg next week.
Five weeks after undergoing cervical spine surgery, the tennis player Radek Štěpánek will return to full training on Monday and says he hopes to be fit for the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup quarter-final tie with Kazakhstan at the start of April. The country’s number two is set to fly to Florida to train with coach Petr Korda. In December Štěpánek led the Czechs to their first Davis Cup triumph in over 30 years.
President Václav Klaus’s second and final term in office ends at midnight on Thursday. Mr Klaus was first elected president in 2003, after serving as prime minister and head of the right-of-centre Civic Democrat party in the 1990s. Mr Klaus is credited with creating the democratic political system in the Czech Republic; however, his divisive views on issues such as global warming and European integrations have made him a controversial figure. After attending his successor’s inauguration on Friday, Mr Klaus is set to leave for a lecture tour in the US before assuming a new role as the head of the recently-founded Václav Klaus Institute in Prague.