After two five-year mandates, Czech President Miloš Zeman’s term in office ends at midnight on Wednesday, March 8.
Zeman, who was first a member of the Social Democratic Party but later switched to the centre-left Party of Civic Rights, was one of the defining figures in Prague after the Velvet Revolution of 1989, along with his predecessors Václav Havel and Václav Klaus.
But in the commentaries, there is not much mourning over his departure.
He did more harm than good
“His dark side far outweighed his light one. We joined Nato when Zeman was prime minister, but after that he never stopped torpedoing our Western alliances. Zeman conceived his entire presidency as representing the interests of China and Russia. … When our first post-revolutionary president died, parliament paid him tribute by saying: ‘Václav Havel did a great service to freedom and democracy.’ With regard to this outgoing president it should say: ‘Miloš Zeman endangered freedom and democracy’,” wrote Erik Tabery, editor-in-chief of Respekt.
A striking but controversial personality
Deník is also ambivalent about the outgoing president:
“Miloš Zeman is a conspicuous personality of the post-revolutionary era. For many years he held the pen with which history was written. He did not lack the powers to go down in history as a great statesman. However, he was prevented from doing so by certain negative character traits and a poor choice of advisors. So he will be remembered more as a rather vulgar domestic provocateur and an admirer of Putin and Xi. But he called a spade a spade and achieved most of his political goals.”
This is not a change of regime
According to the presidential office Petr Pavel will not move into Prague Castle until the rooms there have been checked for bugging devices, Lidové noviny notes with a smile:
“It should be remembered that the office of the Czech president is a purely civilian position and is now being passed from one civilian to another, both of whom won it fair and square in elections. When the ‘debugging’ of the castle is publicly emphasized, this conveys the somewhat unfortunate impression that the Czech Republic is a country where a political regime change is currently taking place. But this is an exaggeration, to say the least.”
Petr Pavel’s inauguration
The inauguration will start in the Vladislav Hall at 2 pm at a joint meeting of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the upper and the lower houses of the Czech parliament.
After the oath, troops will fire 21 salvos from Prague’s Petrin hill, accompanied by the Czech national anthem. This will be followed by a speech from the new president.
When the inauguration is over, Pavel will greet the public from the balcony in the third courtyard of Prague Castle. Czech Chief of Staff Karel Rehka will then salute Pavel at the first courtyard, before the new president lays flowers at the statue of the first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk in front of the Prague Castle complex.
After a celebration with around 2,500 people, the last part of the ceremony will take place in the St Vitus Cathedral, with a prayer and a performance from the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.