Czech Lawmakers Embark on Plan to Strip President of Powers Due to Illness
(Bloomberg) -- Czech lawmakers began the process of relieving President Milos Zeman of his duties due to poor health, a development that may smooth the way for the opposition to unseat his ally prime minister after he unexpectedly lost elections this month.
Zeman, 77, was rushed to the intensive-care unit of a Prague hospital on Oct. 10, a day after a group of center-right political forces defeated Premier Andrej Babis’s party and vowed to lead a new ruling coalition.
The president and his family didn’t allow doctors to disclose the exact diagnosis, sparking nationwide criticism that his office wasn’t being transparent about whether he could perform his duties.
The constitutional committee of the upper house of parliament, the Senate, agreed on Tuesday that conditions have been met to transfer the president’s powers, committee chairman Zdenek Hraba said. The Senate, in which parties opposing Zeman’s policies hold a majority, may vote on the motion at a session scheduled for Nov. 5.
“The current health condition of the president doesn’t allow carrying out duties of his office, and the prognosis is that it’s very unlikely that he’ll be able to return to office within weeks,” Hraba said in a televised briefing.
Under the constitution, the upper and lower chambers can pass a motion to declare the president unfit to perform his duties “due to serious reasons.” That would leave him formally still in office, but with his powers split between the prime minister and the speaker of the lower house. Once the president’s health improves, lawmakers can vote to return his powers.
If the motion is approved, the president’s main post-election function -- naming a prime minister-designate -- would go to the speaker of the lower house.
The group of parties vying to replace Babis’s government has said the position of speaker of parliament belongs to them when the assembly convenes on Nov. 8. Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil, who had requested information from the hospital on Zeman’s health, said on Monday the president is unable to work and won’t be able to do so for weeks.
The head of Zeman’s office has rejected the Senate’s attempts to strip him of his powers as “hypocrisy.” The president can challenge the motion approved by parliament at the Constitutional Court.
The president’s job is mostly ceremonial. But he does name the prime minister and cabinet members, is the head of state and the supreme military commander and also chooses the central bank’s policy-making board and appoints judges.
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