Czech president cannot perform duties due to ill health: Official

Senate speaker says hospitalised President Milos Zeman unable to work, seeks to shift duties to other officials.

Incumbent president Milos Zeman arrives to vote at a polling station during the second round of the presidential election in Prague
Zeman's office has disregarded calls to give any details on the 77-year-old president's condition or diagnosis [File: David W Cerny/Reuters]

Czech President Milos Zeman is currently unable to carry out his duties, the head of parliament’s upper house has said, citing a report he had requested from the hospital where Zeman has been in intensive care for more than a week.

Milos Vystrcil, the Senate speaker, told reporters on Monday that the report said it was unlikely Zeman could return to work in the coming weeks.

He said parliament thus needed to discuss enacting a constitutional clause that shifts the president’s duties to other officials, including the appointment of a new prime minister following the October 8-9 election.

Such a move would require the consent of both houses of parliament, with the new lower chamber due to meet for the first time on November 8.

Zeman was taken to hospital on October 10, the day after the election in which his ally, Prime Minister Andrej Babis, was defeated by a group of opposition parties that grabbed a majority of seats in the lower house and are aiming to form a new government.

Zeman’s office has disregarded calls to give any details on the 77-year-old president’s condition or diagnosis, beyond saying his hospitalisation did not get in the way of his duties.

That prompted Vystrcil to seek the hospital’s opinion, without explicitly revealing the diagnosis, and the hospital gave its report on Monday.

“In the opinion of the Central Military Hospital, President Milos Zeman is not currently able, due to health reasons, to carry out any work duties,” Vystrcil said.

“In the [hospital’s] opinion, given the character of President Zeman’s underlying illness, the long-term prognosis of his health condition is highly uncertain and thus the possibility of his return to performing work duties in the coming weeks is evaluated as unlikely.”

Zeman’s wife said last week that he needs time to recuperate amid uncertainty about whether his condition would affect efforts to form a new government.

“I can only confirm that he has been undergoing treatment that needs time,” Ivana Zemanova said. “I’d like to ask you for patience and time; he needs to regain strength.”

Zeman is a heavy smoker and drinker who has suffered from diabetes. He has trouble walking and has been using a wheelchair.

Jiri Ovcacek, the president’s spokesman, previously said Zeman’s current stay in hospital does not threaten the country’s post-election negotiations and his constitutional duties.

Zeman was previously admitted for hospitalisation on September 14 for what his office described later as a planned examination. The office said the president was only dehydrated and exhausted. Zeman was discharged after eight days. He spent four days in the same hospital in 2019 for similar reasons.

A liberal-conservative, three-party coalition named Together won 27.8 percent of the vote on Saturday, beating Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ ANO (YES) party, which won 27.1 percent. A centre-left liberal coalition received 15.6 percent to finish third.

The two coalitions have pledged to govern jointly. They are closer to the European Union mainstream than Eurosceptic Babis.

Together won 71 of the 200 seats in the lower house of parliament and the centre-left alliance won 37 seats, which would give their government a comfortable, 108-seat majority.

Babis’s ANO won 72 seats, six fewer than it did in the 2017 election. He said he was ready to be in opposition despite Zeman’s offer to try to form a government. The two are close allies.

Source: News Agencies