Friday, 22 March 2019

HN: Zeman uses state awarding ceremony for his campaign

31 October 2017

Prague, Oct 30 (CTK) - Czech President Milos Zeman arranged the annual awarding ceremony organised by his office on the national holiday of October 28 as part of the campaign for his re-election, with subliminal advertising of himself, Petr Honzejk writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Monday.

He says both Zeman's speech and the list of the decorated persons were messages that his voters can clearly understand.

The speech was the defensive part of Zeman's struggle for re-election in the January direct presidential election, while the medals he handed over were the offensive, Honzejk writes.

The contents of the speech is not as interesting as the fact that Zeman totally avoided current political affairs, which is very striking one week after the general election that has caused the biggest breakthrough in the country since the 1989 fall of the communist regime, Honzejk writes, referring to the crushing victory of the ANO movement of billionaire Andrej Babis and the defeat of traditional democratic parties.

He says one would expect Zeman to assess the latest political developments and possibly also present a vision for the future of the country that will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its foundation next year.

Zeman avoided any such comments and he presented a kind of essay on science and art full of quotations, Honzejk writes.

He says this has two reasons related to the fact that Zeman is playing his own game for re-election.

First, he needs to win the broadest possible support and the smallest possible competition, and so he does not want to make angry any of the Czech political leaders, unless it is unavoidable, Honzejk writes.

Second, voters will appreciate the most if Zeman takes a stance of a statesman in the present critical political situation - in other words, if he acts as a president who shows self-restraint. Always when he acted in a reserved rather than embarrassing manner and did not provoke, his popularity among Czechs went steeply up, Honzejk says.

This is the defensive manoeuvre in Zeman's ongoing presidential campaign: to make no mistake and let the majesty of the presidential post do most of the work, Honzejk writes.

He says the list of people who received state decorations is a clever mixture typical of Zeman. Next to personalities who deserve high respect, such as war heroes, renowned researchers, doctors and excellent athletes, there is the group of those whose main quality is their affinity with Zeman or their ability to directly or indirectly help him to be re-elected, Honzejk writes.

Journalist Petr Zantovsky wages a campaign against the public Czech Television (which Zeman strongly dislikes) in the Parlamentni listy news server (which the Interior Ministry listed among conspiracy websites), historian Vlastimil Vondruska predicts that Muslim hordes will destroy the West (which is similar to what Zeman claims), and singer-songwriter Jaromir Nohavica was chosen mainly because he supports populist Tomio Okamura who wants to ban Islam in the country, Honzejk writes.

Zeman also awarded the stars of the popular culture, such as film director Zdenek Troska, he adds.

Though Zeman did not openly speak of politics, the Czech state ceremony held last Saturday seems to be the most political one so far. Zeman confirmed the sad fact that he considers the celebration of a national holiday and state decorations primarily a means to promote his own political goals, Honzejk writes.

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