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Czech lawmakers have narrowly voted to charge country’s outgoing President Vaclav Klaus with high treason.
The upper house voted to refer Vaclav Klaus to the constitutional court to rule on whether he had violated the constitution with a New Year amnesty.
The wide-ranging measures were controversial as they resulted in multiple high-profile corruption cases being suspended.
Vaclav Klaus’s term as president of the country is due to end on Thursday.
Thirty-eight senators in the 81-seat house, controlled by the left-wing opposition, voted to impeach President Vaclav Klaus, with 30 voting against. Only the Senate has such power in the Czech legal system.
The worst punishment Vaclav Klaus faces is the loss of his presidential job, a role the 71-year-old must relinquish later this week having served two terms in office.
Czech lawmakers have narrowly voted to charge country’s outgoing President Vaclav Klaus with high treason
President Vaclav Klaus’ New Year measures included an amnesty for many prisoners.
It was not, however, the decision to free some 7,000 prisoners serving sentences of up to a year or cancel all suspended sentences, but rather the halting of the prosecution of cases that had dragged on for more than eight years that caused widespread public anger.
In one fell swoop, a dozen high-profile corruption cases – cases that involve millions of dollars in asset-stripping, bribes and fraud – were thrown out.
The halted prosecutions included that of prominent businessman Tomas Pitr for alleged tax fraud and that of former football association chief Frantisek Chvalovsky for embezzlement.
The senators also accuse Vaclav Klaus of flouting the constitution by refusing to ratify European treaties, and for refusing to rule on the appointment of judges despite being ordered by courts to do so.
The Euroskeptic president held up the ratification of Europe’s landmark Lisbon Treaty, while demanding an opt-out for the country.
Czech Senate is dominated by leftist opponents of Vaclav Klaus, whose departure from office is imminent so this vote is a symbolic – albeit dramatic – end to his presidency.
It is still unclear as to what exactly a guilty verdict would mean as Vaclav Klaus will no longer be in office when the constitutional court delivers its ruling, and the biggest sanction he would face is the loss of his presidential pension.
Former Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has won the presidential election – the first time the position has been decided by direct popular vote.
Milos Zeman won 55% of votes in the second-round poll, compared to Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg’s 45%.
Voters had braved freezing conditions to turn out in what was being seen as a nail-bitingly close poll.
Milos Zeman is seen as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking politician, known for his witty put-downs of opponents.
As president, Milos Zeman will represent the Czech Republic abroad and appoint candidates to the constitutional court and the central bank, but the post does not carry much day-to-day power.
Milos Zeman will replace the euroskeptic Vaclav Klaus, who steps down in March after ten years in office.
Both presidential candidates support deeper integration of the European Union.
The result is a triumphant return for a man many thought was finished in politics.
Former Czech PM Milos Zeman has won the presidential election, the first time the position has been decided by direct popular vote
Ten years ago Milos Zeman was humiliated in his first attempt to become president – even members of his own party didn’t vote for him.
He has spent much of the last decade in retirement at his country cottage, but he returns now to political life with a vengeance.
He seems to have won the support of many poorer, older voters from areas of the country that have suffered in the economic downtown.
Milos Zeman won 24.2% in the first round poll, with Karel Schwarzenberg winning 23.4%.
Although Czechs are generally disillusioned with politics, they turned out in their droves to choose between the two very different candidates – Milos Zeman, the acerbic former Social Democrat prime minister, and Karel Schwarzenberg, the elderly, aristocratic foreign minister.
The urban elite voted en masse for Karel Schwarzenberg – who was supported by many in the media and had a strong Facebook following.
A titled prince, 75 years old but wildly popularly amongst young, urban voters, in the early 1990s, he worked as chancellor to the President Vaclav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that brought down Communist rule in 1989.
For Karel Schwarzenberg’s supporters, this is a bitter defeat.
Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman is set to face Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg in a run-off in the Czech Republic’s presidential election.
With almost all the votes counted in the first round of voting, Milos Zeman has emerged as the front runner, with Karel Schwarzenberg in second place.
The two candidates will now contest a run-off in two-weeks time, as no candidate won 50% of the votes.
Another former Prime Minister, Jan Fisher, was beaten into third place.
He had previously led the polls but failed to shine in a pre-election televised debate among candidates.
Vladimir Franz, a drama professor, painter and composer who is covered in blue tattoos, came fifth.
Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman is set to face Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg in a run-off in the Czech Republic’s presidential election
The result means the election to succeed President Vaclav Klaus, who led the country for ten years, now centres around two very different men.
Milos Zeman is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking politician, known for his witty put-downs of his political opponents.
Karel Schwarzenberg is a titled prince, 75 years of age but wildly popularly amongst young, urban voters – and closely linked to the country’s first president, the late Vaclav Havel.
Playwright and dissident Vaclav Havel was the leader of the Velvet Revolution that brought down Communist rule in 1989.
Vaclav Klaus, a charismatic but divisive figure, is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term in office.
Correspondents say his departure is likely to be welcomed in many European capitals, which were often exasperated by his blunt suspicion of European integration.
However, many in the Czech Republic gave him credit for his economic policies when in government in the 1990s, and for his decision to keep out of the euro.
The vote is the first time the president is being directly elected by the public.
The new president will represent the Czech Republic abroad and appoint candidates to the constitutional court and the central bank, but does not carry much day-to-day power.
A man armed with a replica pistol has fired at Czech President Vaclav Klaus at close range while he was opening a bridge in the north of the country.
Footage of the incident from Czech channel TV Prima shows Vaclav Klaus recoiling slightly but carrying on with the visit apparently unhurt.
Vaclav Klaus was taken to hospital but suffered only minor bruising.
His security detail has come in for harsh criticism for allowing the man to get so close to Vaclav Klaus.
It is also unclear why Vaclav Klaus’ bodyguards failed to react when a gun was pulled on him.
A man armed with a replica pistol has fired at Czech President Vaclav Klaus at close range while he was opening a bridge in the north of the country
Vaclav Klaus himself rebuked them for failing to handle the situation well, according to the Nova TV station.
He later said the incident happened so quickly he did not have time to be afraid, our correspondent adds.
The attacker, who was dressed in camouflage clothing, pushed his way through a crowd in the town of Chrastava before firing the weapon at Vaclav Klaus.
The weapon was of the sort that is used in “airsoft” gaming.
The man was briefly interviewed by Czech media and said he was a 26-year-old communist sympathizer.
He said he had carried out the attack because the government was deaf to the concerns of ordinary people.
The man was arrested by police shortly afterwards.
Vaclav Klaus has been in the largely ceremonial post of president since 2003 and previously served as prime minister in the 1990s.
He is known for pushing through reforms to the Czech Republic’s economy after the fall of Communism and is a staunch opponent of EU integration.
Anti-government protesters in the Czech Republic have staged what they describe as the biggest rally since the fall of communism in 1989.
Demonstrators say 120,000 people packed the capital Prague, protesting against austerity measures and corruption. Police put the numbers at 90,000.
Echoing 1989, people jangled their keys – a signal to the centre-right coalition cabinet to lock up and leave.
The government has recently been rocked by splits and defections.
It is no longer clear if the coalition of Prime Minister Petr Necas commands a majority in parliament.
Anti-government protesters in the Czech Republic have staged what they describe as the biggest rally since the fall of communism in 1989
On Saturday, the protesters – including many pensioners and students – marched through Prague, gathering in Wenceslas Square – the heart of the capital.
Chanting and whistling, they carried banners which read “Stop thieves!” and “Away with the government!”
Rene Koncilova, one of the marchers, said she was struggling to survive on her monthly $350 disability pension.
“Vaclav Klaus [current president] told us in 1989 that we had to tighten our belts, and the country became anorexic,” she said.
“Fortunately, doctors managed to cure it, but now they’re asking us to tighten our belts again. I think we’ll all be anorexic before long.”
Czech government says there is no alternative to cuts in public spending and tax rises if the country is to avoid the fate of debt-ridden Greece.