Czech president admitted to intensive care a day after parliamentary poll


Czech president Milos Zeman was rushed to hospital on Sunday, as his poor health threatened to complicate the process of forming a new government a day after the ruling coalition narrowly lost parliamentary elections.

Zeman’s doctor, Miroslav Zavoral, said in a statement that the 77-year-old, who suffers from diabetes and has trouble walking, was in intensive care.

Zavoral said the president was suffering from complications related to a known condition, but he did not provide further details. Zeman was previously hospitalised for a few days last month for what his office said was dehydration and exhaustion.

Zeman was admitted to the Central Military Hospital in Prague shortly after meeting Prime Minister Andrej Babis, whose centrist Ano party unexpectedly lost Saturday’s parliamentary poll to the rightwing Together coalition.

Under the Czech constitution, the president has the right to designate which party gets the first chance to form a new government after an election. If the president is unable to do this, the decision is taken by the Speaker of the lower house of parliament.

Zeman said before the election that he would give the first shot at forming a government to the biggest single party, rather than the coalition with the most seats.

If Zeman were to stick to that decision, it would mean that Babis would have a chance to try and cling on to power. His Ano party won 27 per cent of the vote, narrowly behind the three-party Together coalition, which garnered 28 per cent.

The Together bloc and the centrist PirStan, a second coalition uniting the Pirate party and Mayors and Independents, which came third in Saturday’s poll, have both ruled out co-operating with Babis, citing allegations of conflict of interest relating to the business empire the prime minister built before entering politics.

Babis has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Between them, Together and PirStan won 108 of the 200 seats in parliament, meaning that even if Babis is given the first chance to form a government, he will struggle to succeed unless MPs from Together or PirStan break ranks to join him.

“The situation is pretty clear: there is a majority of 108 deputies and the response of the head of state should be to appoint [Together leader] Petr Fiala as prime minister. No other alternative presents itself,” Martin Kupka, an MP from the Together coalition, told CNN Prima TV on Sunday.

“The president should abide by constitutional custom and take the necessary steps.”

Vit Rakusan, leader of the Mayors and Independents, said on Saturday evening that the two coalitions would work together and that Fiala should be designated the new prime minister. “We will not disappoint. We will stick to what we promised,” he wrote on Twitter.

Babis made no statement after leaving his meeting with Zeman on Sunday.

He later wrote a brief message to his supporters on Facebook in which he pointed out that despite not winning the election, Ano would be the largest single party in the new parliament.

“At first glance, it looks like the project of the five-party coalition to force Babis out of politics has worked. But the coming months with show whether that is the case,” he said.