|3rd President of the Czech Republic|
Assumed office |
8 March 2013
|Preceded by||Václav Klaus|
|3rd Prime Minister of the Czech Republic|
22 July 1998 – 15 July 2002
|Preceded by||Josef Tošovský|
|Succeeded by||Vladimír Špidla|
|Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies|
27 June 1996 – 17 July 1998
|Preceded by||Milan Uhde|
|Succeeded by||Václav Klaus|
|Leader of the Social Democratic Party|
28 February 1993 – 7 April 2001
|Preceded by||Jiří Horák|
|Succeeded by||Vladimír Špidla|
28 September 1944|
Kolín, Bohemia and Moravia
(now Czech Republic)
Communist Party (1968–1970)|
Civic Forum (1990–1991)
Civic Movement (1991–1992)
Social Democratic Party (1992–2009)
Party of Civic Rights (2009–present)
Blanka Zemanová (Divorced)|
Ivana Bednarčíková (1993–present)
|Alma mater||University of Economics, Prague|
Miloš Zeman (Czech pronunciation: [ˈmɪloʃ ˈzɛman]; born 28 September 1944) is the third and current President of the Czech Republic, in office since 8 March 2013. Previously he served as the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic from 1998 to 2002. As leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party during the 1990s, he transformed it into one of the country's major parties. He was Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech parliament, from 1996 to 1998.
In January 2013, Zeman was elected as President of the Czech Republic. He is the first directly elected President in Czech history; both of his predecessors, Václav Havel and Václav Klaus, were elected by the Parliament.
Zeman was born in Kolín; his parents divorced when he was two years old and he was raised by his mother, who was a teacher. He studied at a high school in Kolín; from 1965 he studied at the University of Economics in Prague, graduating in 1969.
In 1968, during the Prague Spring, he became a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia; however, he was expelled in 1970, owing to his differences with the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. He was dismissed from his job and spent more than ten years as an employee of the sports organisation Sportpropag (1971–84). From 1984, he worked in the company Agrodat. However, he was dismissed again in 1989, this time as a result of his critical article "Prognostika a přestavba" ("Forecasts and Reconstruction").
Activities from 1989 to 2013
In summer 1989, he appeared on Czechoslovak Television with a critical commentary about the unsatisfactory state of the Czechoslovak economy. His speech caused a scandal. However, the same opinions helped him to join the leaders of the Civic Forum few months later, during the Velvet Revolution.
In 1990, Zeman became a member of the Chamber of the Nations of the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly. In 1992, he successfully ran for the Chamber of the People of the Federal Assembly, already as a member of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), which he joined the same year. In 1993, he was elected chairman of the party, and in the following years he transformed it into one of the country's major parties.
The success of ČSSD in the 1996 legislative election allowed him to prevent his rival Václav Klaus and his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) from creating majority government. Zeman became the Chair of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic and held this post until the early election in 1998.
In 1998, the ČSSD won the election and Zeman became the Prime Minister of his own minority government, which he led throughout the next four years. In April 2001, he was replaced by Vladimír Špidla as party leader. Zeman then retired and moved to live in the countryside (Vysočina Region). His nomination for Czech president failed at the 2003 presidential election (to Václav Klaus), due to party disunity. Zeman became an outspoken critic of his former party's leaders. He left the Czech Social Democratic Party on 21 March 2007, due to conflicts with the leader and chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party, Jiří Paroubek.
Presidency (March 2013 – present)
Miloš Zeman announced his comeback and the intention to run in the first direct presidential election in the Czech Republic in February 2012. Together with Jan Fischer, polling showed him to be one of the two strongest candidates in the election. Zeman narrowly won the first round of the elections and went into the second round to face Karel Schwarzenberg, winning by a clearer margin. His term began in March 2013.
Zeman's allegedly excessive alcohol consumption became a subject of public discussion and media attention on several occasions. Many Czechs believed he was drunk during his appearances in Czech TV headquarters, shortly after his win in the 2013 presidential election, or during the exhibition of Bohemian Crown Jewels.
In June 2013, the coalition government led by Petr Nečas resigned in association with a corruption and spying scandal. Zeman, reinforced by his victory in the first direct presidential election, decided to appoint his friend and a long-time ally Jiří Rusnok the Prime Minister and let him form a new government, ignoring the political balance of power in the Czech Parliament. This was viewed by some of the Czech and foreign media as political power grab undermining parliamentary democracy and expanding his powers. "Don't let yourself get annoyed by media criticism of jealous fools who have never in their life done a useful thing", said the Czech President to the members of Rusnok's cabinet during the appointment on 10 July 2013.
Zeman played an important role in a scandal that occurred in October 2013, shortly after the Czech legislative election. Michal Hašek, the First Deputy Chairman of the winning Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) and his allies from the party called on the chairman Bohuslav Sobotka to resign due to the party's poor election result and eliminated him from the team negotiating the next government. However, the further course of events showed that Hašek and his allies attended a secret post-election meeting with the Czech President and possibly negotiated a 'coup' in the ČSSD with him. Hašek had previously denied the accusations, stating in the Czech Television that "there was no meeting", however, his allies (deputies Milan Chovanec, Zdeněk Škromach, Jeroným Tejc and Jiří Zimola) later admitted that the meeting took place. The event sparked public protests in the country and eventually led to Hašek's apology and resignation as the First Deputy Chairman of the ČSSD.
Zeman said he didn't initiate the meeting. His Party of Civic Rights – Zeman's people (SPOZ) lost the election with 1.5% of the votes.
On 6 April 2014, Zeman opined that strong action be taken, possibly including sending NATO forces to Ukraine, if Russia tries to annex the eastern part of the country, in the wake of the 2014 Crimean crisis. He was quoted in a public radio show as having said: "The moment Russia decides to widen its territorial expansion to the eastern part of Ukraine, that is where the fun ends. There I would plead not only for the strictest EU sanctions, but even for military readiness of the North Atlantic Alliance, like for example NATO forces entering Ukrainian territory." The Czech Republic has been a NATO member since 1999, joining just weeks before the alliance decided to bomb Yugoslavia, when Zeman was prime minister. In the Czech constitutional system it is the government that has the main say in foreign policy, although the President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The ČSSD government of Bohuslav Sobotka resisted strong EU sanctions against Russia after its annexation of Crimea because of the negative economic impact of such a step.
The New York Times has described Zeman as a "populist leftist".
Zeman has expressed concern about the growth of Islamic terrorism and of ISIS. In June 2011, Zeman, referring to Islam, said "The enemy is the anti-civilisation spreading from North Africa to Indonesia. Two billion people live in and it is financed partly from oil sales and partly from drug sales." He likened Muslims who believe in the Qur'an to antisemitic and racist Nazis.
In November 2012, during a speech at the University of Economics in Prague, he explained the dislike that he has for Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State. Zeman stated that Albright had promised that there would be no bombardment of civilians during the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia. "And Madeleine Albright made a promise, and Madeleine Albright didn't keep the promise. Since then, I don't like her."
While visiting Belgrade in 2014, he stated that he opposes the formation of an independent army in Kosovo, as he thinks it would be equivalent to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army). He commented on the history of terror acts committed by the KLA, and noted that its disbanding was a component of the peace agreements. During the same visit, he said he hoped Serbia would join the European Union soon.
He views the war in Donbass as "a civil war between two groups of Ukrainian citizens". As for the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, he has noted that the Kosovo precedent has been used as an argument for the separation of Crimea from Ukraine.
In March 2015, Zeman commented on Czech anti-NATO rallies against the US Army's military convoy (called the "Dragoon Ride") crossing Czech Republic following NATO exercises in Poland and the Baltic states:
"In the past months I have been fighting anti-Russian fools, but most recently I have had to fight anti-American fools as well, since fools are evenly spread on both sides. ... I disagree with the U.S. troops being labelled an occupation army for one simple reason. We experienced occupation twice last century [1939 and 1968] and we know how it looks like."— Miloš Zeman
Zeman announced that he intended to visit Moscow for the 2015 Victory Day celebrations and the 70th anniversary of the liberation from Nazi Germany. He said that he won't go there for the purpose of watching military equipment, but rather to honor the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. He described his visit to Moscow as an "expression of thankfulness for that we in this country don't have to speak German, if we would have become submissive collaborators of Aryan origin", and that "we don't have to say Heil Hitler, Heil Himmler, Heil Göring, and eventually Heil Heydrich, that would have been particularly interesting".
Other EU politicians declared that they will not attend the events due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Andrew H. Schapiro, the ambassador of the United States, criticized the decision saying that it would "be awkward" if Zeman was the only statesman from the EU at the ceremony. Zeman responded by banning him from the Prague Castle.
"I cannot imagine that the Czech ambassador in Washington would advise the US president where he should travel. And I will not allow any ambassador to have a say in my foreign travel plans."— Miloš Zeman
Zeman called for unified armed operation against Islamic State (ISIL) led by the U.N. Security Council. In June 2015, Zeman stated: "If European countries accept a wave of migrants, there will be terrorist groups among them, of which also a Libyan minister has warned. By accepting the migrants, we strongly facilitate Islamic State’s expansion to Europe." Zeman believes that wave of Middle Eastern refugees arriving in Europe is an "organized invasion".
Criticism and controversies
In 1996, before the legislative election, he negotiated with Czech-Swiss entrepreneur Jan Vízek in the German city of Bamberg. In the so-called "Bamberg Memorandum", a group of Swiss entrepreneurs allegedly negotiated funding of the ČSSD pre-election campaign in exchange for the promise of influencing the economic development in the Czech Republic after the election. The investigation ended in 2000. Vízek was convicted of falsification of the memorandum by copying signatures from earlier documents. He later admitted that he intentionally published the case in order to compromise Zeman before the next election, held in 1998. Zeman's guilt has not been proven, but it remains unclear what was behind the meetings between Zeman and Vízek in 1996.
In 1999, one of Zeman's advisors, Jaroslav Novotný, allegedly blackmailed the director of the state-owned Štiřín Castle, Václav Hrubý. Novotný allegedly pressed him to falsify evidence in order to prove that former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec corrupted journalists. The police confirmed the blackmail, but nobody was punished, despite convincing evidence.
Zeman has been criticized for his contacts with the powerful Czech lobbyist and his former chief advisor, Miroslav Šlouf. During Zeman's prime minister-ship, Šlouf maintained contacts with the controversial entrepreneur František Mrázek, nicknamed the "Godfather of Czech Organized Crime". Šlouf and Mrázek met and exchanged information at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. Mrázek was assassinated in 2006. In leaked wiretapping records, he nicknames Zeman mlha ("fog") and claims that Zeman "could not be bribed, and wanted only a sandwich, three pickles and for people to like him." In 2010, Šlouf and Martin Nejedlý, a representative of the Russian oil company LUKoil in the Czech Republic, were the main sponsors of his Party of Civic Rights – Zemanovci.
In 2002, German chancellor Gerhard Schröder cancelled his official visit to Prague after Zeman had called the ethnic Germans in pre-war Czechoslovakia "Hitler's Fifth column". Zeman stated that "the Czechs and Slovaks were doing the Sudeten Germans a favor by expelling them, because they granted them their wish to go Heim ins Reich".
On 26 May 2014, on the occasion of festivities for the independence of Israel, Zeman said "So let me quote one of their [Islamic] sacred texts to support this statement: "A tree says, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. A stone says, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." I would criticize those calling for the killing of Arabs, but I do not know of any movement calling for mass murdering of Arabs. However, I know of one anti-civilisation movement calling for the mass murder of Jews." When criticized and called upon from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to apologize, his office replied "President Zeman definitely does not intend to apologise. For the president would consider it blasphemy to apologise for the quotation of a sacred Islamic text."
Zeman's remarks on Jewish Museum of Belgium shooting and "Islamic ideology" in June 2014 caused a diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia. The diplomatic source said: "The Saudis had an exact list of what Zeman said on the issue in the past. The list had several pages. The [Czech] ambassador was in a very unpleasant situation as the protest had never gone so far before."
On 17 November 2014, the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, thousands of Czechs took part in a demonstration against Zeman, protesting his pro-Russian stance and vulgar language. A thrown egg accidentally hit the German president, Joachim Gauck; German officials said it was just a piece of eggshell. On the same day, a group of about 60 people was observed holding a counter-protest in support of president Zeman.
He has an adult son named David from the first marriage. His daughter from the second, Kateřina Zemanová (born 1 January 1994), was one of the most visible faces in Zeman's presidential election team. In a post-election speech, Zeman asked her to be his "informal First Lady", as his wife is allegedly shy and does not like the attention of media. When asked about his religious beliefs, he describes himself as a "tolerant atheist".
Zeman has a long history of lost lawsuits about his public comments. In 1993 Zeman lost his lawsuit about his defamatory statement towards former police officer Milan Hruška. He falsely accused him of lack of intelligence and inadequate education. Zeman ignored the court ruling and, despite being fined, never apologised.
In 1997 Zeman accused his party comrade Jozef Wagner he was interested in joining communist party after leaving his fraction in chamber of deputies. Zeman lost the lawsuit and was ordered to apologise and pay compensation. Zeman first ignored the ruling and finally apologied in 2001. In 2000, Prague City court ruled Zeman had to apologise to politician Miroslav Macek after he branded him as "thief". In 2007, Prague City court ruled Zeman unlawfully accused journalist Ivan Brezina of corruption. Zeman had to publicly apologise by means of a newspaper article and pay 50.000 CZK in damages.
On 19 February 2012, the supreme administration court ruled that Zeman presidential campaign told lies during presidential campaign. According to court ruling lies did not affect the outcome of the presidential elections.
On 2 March 2016, The Prague 1 District Court ruled that Zeman falsely accused well-known journalist Ferdinand Peroutka of adoring Adolf Hitler. According to the preliminary judgement the Office of the President has to publicly apologise to Terezie Kaslová - descendant of Ferdinand Peroutka. After the final appeal failed, the president's office announced it will appeal in Supreme Court of the Czech Republic.
|Czech Republic||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion||7 March 2013 (ex officio)|
|Czech Republic||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk||7 March 2013 (ex officio)|
|Germany||Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany||5 May 2014|
|Slovakia||Order of the White Double Cross||27 May 2014|
|Jordan||Order of al-Hussein bin Ali||February 2015|
|Poland||Order of White Eagle||15 March 2016|
|Slovenia||Order for Exceptional Merits (Slovenia)||18 February 2016|
|Macedonia||Order 8-September||9 June 2016|
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At the close of the speech, which focused entirely on domestic issues with no reference to the European Union or foreign affairs, the new Czech leader described himself as a tolerant atheist.
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- "Jordan, Czech Republic set to boost ties at all levels". The Jordan Times. 11 Feb 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Miloš Zeman.|
- Curriculum Vitae at the website of the Prague Castle
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Miloš Zeman at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Miloš Zeman in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- "Miloš Zeman collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
- Miloš Zeman at the website of the Government of the Czech Republic (Czech)
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Social Democratic Party
| Succeeded by|
|Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies
| Succeeded by|
|Prime Minister of the Czech Republic
| Succeeded by|
|President of the Czech Republic