Czech Republic may change mode of presidential elections

Prague Castle, the official residence of the Czech president © Philipp Köker, 2010

The Czech ministry of the interior has published a document outlining a new electoral law providing for a direct election of the Czech president.

After the election of incumbent Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, by parliament had taken two days and several attempts, the governing coalition of the Civic Democrats (ODS), Public Affairs (VV) and TOP 09 is now planning to change the mode of election. While many parties have occasionally campaigned for such a change before, this presents the first actual attempt. Senior members of the oppositionist Social Democrats (CSSD) have already declared their support, the official party line of the CSSD is however yet unclear. The ministerial draft electoral law will now be sent to other institutions for commentary.

The Czech Republic would be the second country in Central and Eastern Europe to change the presidential election from indirect to popular election. Eleven years ago, Slovakia had already switched to direct elections after the Slovak National Council had been unable to elect a successor to Slovakia’s first president, Michal Kováč, for nearly a year.

Assuming that two rounds are necessary to elect the next president the government estimates the cost to be half a billion Czech crowns (ca. € 20 mio) with costs increasing even further if postal vote will be allowed. Currently, indirect elections by parliament only cost around 250 000 Crowns (€ 10 000).

The next presidential elections will take place in 2013. After two terms as president, the incumbent Vaclav Klaus will not be allowed to run again.

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