Monday, 25 March 2019

President Zeman divides Czech society, says PM

ČTK |
1 February 2016

Prague, Jan 31 (CTK) - President Milos Zeman meaninglessly divides Czech society, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said in an interview with weekly Respekt, adding that Zeman is trying to create a social atmosphere that would be most favourable for him before the next presidential election.

Zeman's recent statement about the Kalashnikov assault rifle as a means to get rid of the prime minister coincides with the attacks by the extremist White Media web operators and fascists, Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said.

Perhaps as a result of his rising age, Zeman has gradually shifted from leftist views to conservative ones, Sobotka stated.

Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek dismissed the criticism. He said it is Sobotka who divides the society by defaming critics of migration.

Tension between Zeman and Sobotka escalated repeatedly in the past weeks, last time following Zeman's visit to south Moravia several days ago. When asked by a student about possible ways to unseat Sobotka as prime minister, he said elections are a democratic way, while an undemocratic way is Kalashnikov.

Sobotka told Respekt that at the beginning he did not believe that Zeman had really pronounced anything like that, in view of the current situation and atmosphere.

In his speech on the November 17 national holiday, Zeman spoke about the need for an open democratic discussion. "However, the reality is completely different if we look at the steps and attacks that have been waged against the people who dare to espouse views different from the views of those who label refugees an organised army of Islamists," Sobotka said, alluding to Zeman's strong anti-Islam and anti-migrant rhetoric.

"It seems to me that the president's statement on shooting the prime minister dead as the best solution for those opposed to the policy I pursue coincides with the attacks by the White Media and the fascists who organised a demonstration directly in front of my flat," Sobotka said.

He said he would never expect to find the president in this group of people one day.

Hackers from the xenophobic White Media server repeatedly attacked Sobotka's private e-mail box a few weeks ago.

Sobotka said Zeman is creating a climate in the society that would be most favourable for the campaign ahead of the next presidential election due in 2018. His individual statements and steps, all is aimed to raise tension in the society, Sobotka said.

To achieve the goal, Zeman uses people fear of terrorism or an uncontrolled migrant wave, Sobotka said.

Zeman, the first president elected directly by people, is yet to announce whether he would seek re-election in early 2018.

Sobotka said Zeman divides the society meaninglessly. His especially strong dividing gesture was his appearance side by side with the Islamophobic Bloc Against Islam leader Martin Konvicka at a meeting on November 17, 2015, Sobotka said.

He said for him as a Social Democrat, it is troubling to watch Zeman, former CSSD chairman in 1993-2001, gradually shifting to conservative positions that often have nothing in common with either the CSSD or left-wing views.

Maybe this has been caused by Zeman's ageing, he said.

"For me, who called in my capacity as the Social Democrat head on people to support Milos Zeman in the second round [of the early 2013 direct presidential election], this is a very unpleasant surprise and a very difficult situation," Sobotka said.

Ovcacek dismissed Sobotka's words.

"If someone divides the society, it is the prime minister who permanently defames those who warn against the danger of migration," Ovcacek told CTK.

If someone has abandoned their left-wing positions, it is not Zeman but Sobotka, who "has diverted from the social democratic policy towards the positions of the former [now defunct rightist liberal] Freedom Union," Ovcacek said.

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