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Czech President Milos Zeman faces threat of impeachment

Prague, Czech Republic – Local media reported earlier this week that a group of Czech senators has started to draft a bill of impeachment against President Milos Zeman, accusing him of violating the Constitution.

Milos Zeman could face possible impeachment procedure

The Senators, gathered in the liberal Senator 21 group, are accusing Milos Zeman and the presidential office of interfering in the country’s courts. Close advisor to Zeman and presidential chancellor Vratislav Mynar is at the heart of the controversy, and has been accused of trying of meddling in and influencing courts’ judgments in cases where the President or his office had an interest. After careful analysis of the affair, anti-corruption watchdog ‘State Reconstruction’ (Rekonstrukce státu) reached the conclusion that M. Mynar attempted to exert influence of top courts judges.

A criminal complaint was also filed against Vratislav Mynar by Senator 21 caucus chairman Vaclav Laska.

Testifying in front of the justice sub-committee of the Chamber of Deputies last month, former chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court Josef Baxa told Czech lawmakers that Milos Zeman had asked him in private to sway certain rulings, in exchange for the position of chief justice of the Constitutional Court. If true, this would amount to a criminal act, Justice Minister Jan Kněžínek (ANO), the former deputy chairman of the government’s Legislative Council, said after the hearing. But after making a unanimous decision, the justice sub-committee considered that the independence of the judiciary was not endangered in that case.

President Zeman, a controversial figure in Czech politics known for his pro-Russian and pro-Chinese stance, has repeatedly denied any allegation of wrongdoing.

Can the Czech President be impeached?

But chances for the bill to go through are extremely slim. As Radio Prague points out, it remains very hard to force a president out of office: “In order to send the charges against the president to the Constitutional Court, the senators (…) would need three-fifths of the vote in both houses of Parliament”, a highly unlikely scenario.

According to the Czech Constitution, the president cannot be held politically responsible for actions taken and policies implemented in the performance of his duties. But its article 65 also states that the head of state remains legally responsible of his actions and can be charged with violation of the Constitution or high treason. But given the complex procedure and qualified majority needed in both chambers of Parliament to bring a bill of impeachment to the Constitutional Court, it’s highly unlikely that the Czech President – directly elected by the citizens since 2013 – will be forced to step down any time soon.

Headed by Kafkadesk's chief-editor Jules Eisenchteter, our Prague office gathers over half a dozen reporters, editors and contributors, as well as our social media team. It covers everything Czech and Slovak-related, and oversees operations from our other Central European desks in Krakow and Budapest.

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