Prague - Czech lawmakers assembled today to elect the next president of the Czech Republic.
The election proceedings began at 10.00 a.m. and it turned out to be a lengthy session full of accusations and bickering, as expected.
This past week Czech legislators failed to reach an agreement over the method of voting and an emotional discord burst forth among them.
In general, Civic Democrats pushed for the secret vote, while Social Democrats, Greens, Christian Democrats as well as Communists were pro-public ballot.
The majority of deputies, including coalition and opposition parties, were advocating the public vote. But the majority of senators stood firmly for the secret vote.
The Czech election process in somewhat complicated; voting rules change over the course of three rounds. A candidate needs a majority of votes of both chambers of Parliament. In 2003, the Parliament needed three round ballots to elect Václav Klaus
Incumbent Václav Klaus is seeking a second 5-year term and he has only one candidate - a political newcomer Jan Švejnar.
Some say those who prefer secret ballot intend to vote Václav Klaus, while the pro-public vote proponents plan to vote Jan Švejnar.
21:03 Vlček announces the session will continue tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.
21:01 Civic Democrat Petr Tluchoř says the vote should be finished. Former head of the Chamber of Deputies Lubomír Zaorálek (Social Democrats) says further vote would be againts the Constitution.
21:00 Christian Democrat Pavel Severa quickly says: "It would be fair to finish the vote not only becuase of us but also because of the media who are present here."
21:00 Officially, the joint session ends now.
20:44 The second round takes place - at first lawmakers vote on Klaus, Švejnar follows.
20:38 Václav Klaus wins 47 votes of senators and 92 votes of MPs, in total 139. Švejnar collects 32 votes of senators and 106 votes of MPs, in total 138. Klaus secures the majority in the Senate and Švejnar has the majority in the Chamber of Deputies. No one wins, as neither of the candidates wins the required majority of 142 votes. The second round will follow.
20:24 - 20:32 Both chambers vote on Klaus at first, then on Švejnar.
20:22 During the vote on Klaus, Civic Democrats´ leader and PM Mirek Topolánek said: "F*** off, everybody!".
20:08 Miloslav Vlček casts a vote on secret ballot. Senate agrees with the secret ballot (51 senators), while the Chamber of Deputies rejected the secret vote. Only 93 MPs were for secret ballot. Vlček announces the vote will be conducted in public ballot.
19:40 The session does not agree to continue after 21.00
19:37 Deputies vote whether to continue the joint session after 21.00. If the vote does not go through, lawmakers will meet tomorrow morning at 10 am.
19:18 On Czech Television the head of Civic Democratic deputies Petr Tluchoř says there is a new option afoot: Chamber of Deputies and Senate will vote on the method of voting separately. In case both chambers decide differently, only then they will vote on the method of voting together. It was the Communists leader Vojtěch Filip who brought up this idea during the break.
19:00 Break is prolonged until 19:15
17:42 Deputies and senators again interrupt their joint session to discuss how to proceed.
17:35 Chamber of Deputies did not reach a consensus on conducting the vote on the secret ballot by both chambers together. Out of 200 deputies 96 were for voting together, 77 deputies were against. Thus the Chamber of Deputies raised chances of the public vote. Deputies rejected the Civic Democrats´ proposal to vote both chambers together. That almost excludes the secret ballot because in a separate vote Chamber of Deputies will reject votes of 4 deputy factions.
17:31 Senate agreed that secret ballot should be voted by both chambers together. Out of 81 senators 56 were for common vote, 17 were against.
17:30 Chairman Vlček declares the vote confusing because of the long break and casts a new vote.
17:18 Chairman Vlček casts a vote whether the Senate will vote together with the Chamber of Deputies on the method of voting. A majority decides.
16:34 Break is prolonged until 17.00
16:04 Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Miloslav Vlček declares a 15-minute break
15:37 Minister of Interior Ivan Langer reminds the legislators of the year of 1989: "I consider secret ballot as something we have to respect and value. For me it is a symbol of why I joined the Strike Committee [during the Velvet Revolution]. I joined the Revolution to be able to vote in secret ballot."
15:35 Another lawmaker who supports public ballot is trade unionist and Social Democratic senator Milan Štěch who said: "We senators know what it feels like when all the power is in the hands of only one party. If we cannot reach an agreement, it means we have to cast a vote. It is absurd should one chamber block the whole parliament."
15:22 Expert on constitutional law Zdeněk Jičínský (Social Democrats): "We have only two options: secret or public ballot. If no majority of lawmakers will vote for the secret ballot, then we will cast the public vote." Jičínský challenged the lawmakers to act with dignity, as Czech citizens expect them to, and elect the head of the state today.
14:49 Civic Democrat MP Marek Benda raised an objection against the Chamber of Deputies chairman Miloslav Vlček who wanted to cast vote on secret ballot. According to Benda it is necessary to vote about both ways of voting - secret and public - by both chambers, otherwise law would be breached.
14:34 The joint assembly continues - MP of the Green Party Kateřina Jacques says: "We need a president who is impartial, which is something that is needed not only by politicians but by public as well. We do not need a president who is a solo player but a team captain." Jacques also stated Švejnar is someone who looks to the future, while Václav Klaus is the symbol of the past.
12:57 Lunch time break
12:28 Social Democrats´ leader Jiří Paroubek addresses the voters: "Jan Švejnar is not a socialist, he has plenty of different views but that is something quite normal with a non-party president. Relying on Jan Švejnar has enriched Czech citizens´ view of us, social democrats," believes Jiří Paroubek. He also thinks that nominating Švejnar indicates Social Democrats are ready to cooperate with people of different opinions and worldviews.
12:01 Christian Democrats´ leader Jiří Čunek appreciated the high level of both presidential candidates - Václav Klaus and Jan Švejnar. "Both candidates have set up a high standard of political culture and we should try to follow it."
11:54 The Communists´ leader Vojtěch Filip addresses the joint assembly and says among other things: "Yes, Václav Klaus is a symbol of the 1990s but for me it is a symbol of our country break up." Filip also expresse dhis dissapointment over Klaus not softening the sharp edges of disputes in our society. "We want the vote to be dignified. The best vote for the citizens of the Czech Republic now is going to be the second round of the vote," added Filip.
11:37 Martin Bursík raises a question: "Is it wise to elect a man who denies the damage done to our planet?" Bursík recalled a meeting between the Greens and President Klaus when the incumbent claimed the number of animal species is not decreasing but actually increasing. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for change," the Green Party leader Martin Bursík ended his speech.
11:31 The Greens´ leader Martin Bursík first openly says the ballot should be public. Listening to Bursík´s speech, President Klaus is shaking his head in disbelief of Bursík´s words.
11:11 President Václav Klaus makes notes during the speech of Jan Švejnar. PM Miroslav Topolánek starts to make notes as well.
10:47 Presidential hopeful Jan Švejnar begins his speech by saying: "I believe in the Czech Republic". Unlike his rival, he welcomes President Klaus. Švejnar´s motto is "Czech Republic without barriers", stressing president is not a rival to political parties but rather their partner and should be impartial in all aspects. If elected president, he would allegedly promote further integration in the European Union, take seriously the issue of globalisation and deal with its consequences accordingly. He also explains when exactly he would use the right of veto.
10:22 Incumbent Václav Klaus first addresses senators and deputies in his speech. Among other things, he says the Czech Republic does not have to start from scratch. He highlights values such as consistency of views and values, growing economy, rational environment protection and strong role of the Czech Republic in Europe without relying on any help from the outside. He explains why he vetoed 31 laws [while Václav Havel vetoed only 18 laws]. He also expressed his strong disagreement with political correctness, which he considers a mere mask of hypocricy and double morale standards, and he stresses president should not be a political activist.
10:04 Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Miloslav Vlček convenes both chambers of parliament.