Eurosceptic Czech President Klaus wins re-election

February 16th, 2008 - 1:40 pm ICT by admin  

Prague, Feb 16 (DPA) Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus has won re-election as a majority of 141 from 279 present lawmakers backed him in the key third ballot of the second presidential election. Klaus - one of the most prominent global-warming sceptics - said that he would not be a president of surprises during his second and last five-year term in office, which will also include the Czech Republic’s presidency of the European Union in early 2009.

“Everybody knows very well that I will remain myself,” the beaming 66-year-old winner told reporters after his re-election Friday.

He defeated 55-year-old pro-European Czech-US economics professor Jan Svejnar. While Svejnar is a political newcomer, for Klaus this was likely his last election battle in the arena of Czech politics.

Pleased with Klaus’ re-election was Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who heads the senior ruling Civic Democratic Party, which nominated the president.

Failure to re-elect Klaus threatened to cost Topolanek his top party post and subsequently topple his fragile ruling coalition.

The re-election of the critic of further European integration thus provides the cabinet with a calm year to get ready for the country’s 2009 EU presidency.

“It is important news because it means stability,” Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra told DPA. “If Vaclav Klaus were not elected it would have had a destabilising consequences for the ruling coalition.”

He said that he does not expect the president’s critical views of the 27-member bloc to negatively influence the upcoming presidency.

“I don’t think that electing Klaus would signify problems,” he said.

As presidents have limited powers, Klaus could at most influence the Czech Republic’s image during that period.

Another winner of the election is Christian Democratic leader Jiri Cunek, who had to leave his cabinet posts of vice-premier and regional development minister amid an alleged bribery scandal.

Topolanek told public broadcaster Czech Television Friday morning that he would invite him to return to the cabinet after a new president is elected.

Most Christian Democratic lawmakers helped to re-elect Klaus but Cunek has insisted that his comeback is unrelated.

“My comeback was delayed so it does not occur during the time of the presidential election. It has nothing to do with it,” he told DPA.

Topolanek, however, has not discussed the planned move with another junior coalition partner, the Greens, who were behind Svejnar’s nomination and have long opposed Cunek’s comeback.

Two cabinet members for the Greens - Education Minister Ondrej Liska and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg - repeated Friday their promises to leave their jobs in protest.

“I will go unless those things are explained,” Schwarzenberg told DPA.

Greens leader Bursik meanwhile tried to cool down those vows by saying that keeping Schwarzenberg in the government is his “priority”.

“First the presidential election has to fade away and then (Cunek’s comeback) will certainly be a matter for negotiations,” Liska said.

The Greens leader suggested that the coalition cabinet scarred by the highly charged presidential election should “ride bikes or do a little skiing” together to overcome differences.

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