On the 2nd of June the Czech Republic’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Senate Committee has adopted a resolution stating that President Miloš Zeman is unfit to carry out his duties as the President of the Czech Republic. This comes after the Committee scrutinised a 45 page long analysis on Mr Zeman’s latest statements, in which he cast doubts on the investigation of the 2014 Vrbětice blasts which was led by his own country’s intelligence services.
The Senate will now rule whether to strip Zeman from the post of the President. The President’s spokesperson has attacked the conclusion of the committee, calling it an "attack on constitutionality, freedom and democracy". He went further and accused the committee of subversion. According to the Czech constitution, if the upper house decides to strip the President from his powers, the lower house would need to confirm such a decision.
Zeman has come under heavy criticism recently for his remarks about the 2014 factory explosion in Vrbětice: the Czech President was sceptical about Russian involvement in the explosion and refused to accept the conclusion of the report following investigation by Czech authorities. He has even suggested that the explosion might have occurred due to an accident, and that the workers not being careful enough with highly explosive material.
To recap, a few weeks ago a report that was published by the Czech authorities blamed an elite Russian spy network for two explosions which occurred in 2014 at ammunition depots due to which two people lost their lives. Following the report’s publication, Russian diplomats were expelled from Czechia and the country demanded one billion Koruna in reparations from Russia (or just over €39mn). At the same time, widespread anti-Russia protests have taken place in the country.
It is not the first time Zeman has made controversial comments: the Czech President is known for his love of alcohol and attending public ceremonies whilst being under the influence. He is critical of EU sanctions on Russia and favours closer ties with the Kremlin. At times, he has also criticised the European Union and could be classified as an Eurosceptic. On top of that, he is also one of the most pro-Chinese head of state in the EU; he called pro-Tibet protesters “mentally impaired individuals” and in 2014 said that he would like to learn how China has “stabilised” its society.
Zeman is currently serving his second term as the President of the Czech Republic. He was first elected to the office in 2013 in the second round in which he received 54.8% of the votes. The 2013 Czech Presidential elections were the country’s first direct elections for president, breaking with the previous tradition Presidents being elected by the parliament. In 2018, Zeman narrowly defeated his rival, a physical chemist and a senator Jiří Drahoš, winning 51.4% of the vote in the second round of elections.
Just a few months away from the elections, the findings of the Czech Senate's committee are an interesting event to follow. It is now clear that many in the Czech Senate are now fed up with Zeman’s rhetoric and the comments which he has made lately about the 2014 explosion. The question remains, however, over whether Zeman will be removed from office months before the parliamentary elections, causing a political turmoil in an already unstable political environment in the Czech Republic.