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Main focus of Monday, January 28, 2013

Zeman to be new Czech president

In the Czech Republic's first presidential election decided by a direct vote, winner Miloš Zeman performed strongly above all in rural areas. (© AP/dapd)

The left-leaning ex-prime minister Miloš Zeman has won the presidential election in the Czech Republic. In the second round held on Friday and Saturday he claimed victory over the conservative Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Commentators attribute Schwarzenberg's defeat to his opponent's nationalist campaign and are hopeful that the future leader will at least do a better job than current president Václav Klaus.

Sme - Slovakia

Social security and fear of the Germans

The reasons for Miloš Zeman's victory in the Czech presidential election can be summed up in two points, the liberal daily Sme recapitulates: "The majority of Czech society still lives under the illusion that it's possible to preserve the social security of days gone by. The social security that was based on an ineffectual state, an ineffectual social policy and an ineffectual pension system, on a life lived on credit. ... The other significant section of those who voted for Zeman is nationalist and xenophobic. During Soviet times one in three Czech families was able to buy a little house for next to nothing, particularly in the border area, which the Germans were forced to leave after the war. Zeman won their votes because he cast himself as the guy who would protect those little houses - unlike his opponent, who allegedly wanted to give these houses back to the Germans. The masses believed Zeman even though the supposed threat of the houses being returned was absolute nonsense." (28/01/2013)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Anti-German sentiment always works

The outgoing Czech President Václav Klaus played a key role in helping the former left-wing prime minister Miloš Zeman beat the conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg by making populist use of Schwarzenberg's criticism of the Beneš decrees, the conservative daily Lidové noviny concludes: "Klaus knows the Czechs inside out. Distrust of foreigners, and particularly anti-German sentiment, function as well as the nerve in a bad tooth. The spectre of the Beneš decrees and linking a non-existent Sudeten German problem with the office of president and the Treaty of Lisbon in any way at all will never fail to have the desired effect. Of course, anyone can play the general after the battle. Karel Schwarzenberg's team should have been aware of the danger. It should have dissuaded him from saying in a debate that from today's perspective Beneš would belong before a tribunal in The Hague. Perhaps the election would still have had the same outcome, but not with such a clear victory for Zeman." (28/01/2013)

Die Presse - Austria

Zeman used nation's ghosts as campaign workers

Miloš Zeman's challenger Karel Schwarzenberg was openly critical of the Beneš decrees in the run-up to the elections, which Zeman exploited in a populist way. He denied Schwarzenberg the right to be the Czech head of state on the grounds that he talks like a "sudeták", as the Sudeten Germans are disparagingly known. The liberal-conservative daily Die Presse is dismayed at what it sees as a mudslinging campaign: "Driven out of Prague as a boy in 1948, Schwarzenberg has served the country as few others have done, first as a supporter of the opposition from exile, then as an advisor to Havel after the fall of communism, and still later as a highly respected Czech foreign minister. One may take comfort in how many votes the courageous, cosmopolitan 75-year-old received even though he was the target of such consistent mudslinging. Nevertheless it remains staggering how easy it is to take old national ghosts out of the closet and use them so successfully as campaign workers." (27/01/2013)

Jyllands-Posten - Denmark

Zeman still better than Klaus

From a European point of view Miloš Zeman is not the best choice, but at least he's better than his predecessor, the right-wing liberal daily Jyllands-Posten writes: "The people have spoken, and now it's time to look ahead. The good thing about the change of power is that the current President Václav Klaus will soon be gone. Klaus attracted attention with eccentric statements about the EU, the climate problem and homosexuals. He was against the Union even though as Czech prime minister he was the one who brought the Czech Republic into the EU in the first place. He considered the issue of climate change nothing more than hysteria, and believed homosexuals should not have equal legal rights. His positions were legitimate in a democracy, but as president he made more enemies for himself than friends, which cannot be the job of a head of state. Abroad he was considered so uncouth that much time elapsed between foreign invitations." (28/01/2013)

» To the complete press review of Monday, January 28, 2013

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