Monday 28 January 2013

A Czech President and a Bulgarian Poll

Milos Zeman, a former social democrat Prime Minister, won the first direct elections to the office of Czech president at the weekend. The presidency in the Czech Republic is mostly ceremonial, though Vaclav Klaus used the position to great effect in his opposition to the Lisbon Treaty during the Czech presidency of the Council. Before this the President was indirectly elected.

Zeman led the polls in the first round of the election at 24.2%, followed by Karel Schwarzenberg's 23.4%. Schwarzenberg was foreign minister during part the Czech presidency of the EU. As the BBC reports:

"Mr Zeman is seen as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking politician, known for his witty put-downs of opponents.


[Schwarzenberg is] A titled prince, 75 years old but wildly popularly amongst young, urban voters, in the early 1990s, he worked as chancellor to the President Vaclav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that brought down Communist rule in 1989."

Both of them beat the eye-catching  university professor Vladimír Franz in the first round.

The final result was 54.8% to Zeman and 45.19% to Schwarzenberg. Both Zeman and Schwarzenberg are more pro-European than Vaclav Klaus.

While the Czech Republic was holding its first direct presidential elections, Bulgaria was running its first referendum since the end of the Communist era. The referendum was on whether to build the country's first nuclear power station (which would cost €10 billion), but the referendum failed to pass due to the very low turnout in the harsh wintry weather. The 20% turnout meant that the referendum didn't reach the 60% threshold to make the poll valid.

The left-wing opposition is celebrating the vote in favour of the nuclear power station as a victory, even if the vote is not binding.

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