I’m watching the inauguration of Miloš Zeman on-line (did not get invited – rude!). The ceremony is taking place in the gorgeous Vladislav Hall located in Prague Castle. As Zeman swore to be true to the Czech Republic over which he now presides, the runner-up Schwarzenberg (in his capacity of Minister of Foreign Affairs) stood right behind him. Some genius thought it would be nice to park Schwarzenberg right behind Zeman taking the oath, which made for a striking contrast.
Not that Schwarzenberg came close – but if you just went by what you see here in Prague, you’d think the election had been stolen from him. Even now, over a month after the elections, the yellow-and-pink stickers, buttons, and posters with Schwarzenberg’s countenance are all over – only to be joined by new posters saying ‘Zeman is not my president’. I have seen no sign of any sort of support for the President-Elect. For Schwarzenberg’s supporters, the defeat has been hard to swallow and the reaction has been a bit acrimonious.
In addition to Schwarzenberg and other members of the Czech government, both chambers of parliament were there, as well as a range of representatives of social and state organizations (army, church, etc.). Zeman’s wife, who keeps a notoriously low profile, was also there, as well as the second wife of former President Václav Havel’s second wife Dagmar. Of course, former president Klaus was also in attendance – his closing days in office were not what he had hoped for, as they were marked by the Senate indicting him with nothing less than high treason for his role in granting amnesty to a great many convicts including many people convicted for defrauding Czech taxpayers. This is an unprecedented move that could have lasting effects for future presidents (sure enough, new president Zeman has denounced the move as ‘hysterical’ and not because he thought it was very funny). We’ll have to see whether the Constitutional Court will consider the case – they have already denied that it lies within their jurisdiction to overrule the President’s amnesty and constitutional scholars are divided as to whether the treason case has merit.
Anyway, back to the inauguration. After the oath, Zeman ad-libbed a short speech. Characteristically, even in his inaugural speech, Zeman found a way to heap scorn on his nemesis, the Czech media. Listing those groups in society that he considers to be ‘islands of negative deviation’, he started out with the mafia and neo-nazi extremists, only to end with ‘parts of the media’, a group afflicted with minimal knowledge and maximum self-confidence. The crowd erupted into applause. I have a hard time imagining other heads of state using such strong language and being applauded for it.