Vol. 15, No. 3


Miloš Brunclík; Jakub Charvát Editorial
Jan Géryk; Tomáš Halamka Direct Presidential Election in the Czech Republic: The Rise of Tribunes?

The debate about the direct election of the Czech president within the fields of political science and constitutional law has been almost unanimously sceptical about the introduction of the popular vote. This article offers a contrary perspective developed through theorising a potential tribune function of the Czech presidents. We investigate the workings of the original office of the Roman tribunate, the place of tribune function as a democratic element within the classical accounts of the mixed constitution, and its revival in modern political theory and political sociology. We argue that the popular vote increased the tribune potential of the Czech presidency to channel Czech democracy’s discontent. If some major deficiencies of the direct vote are reformed, such as the polarising two-round electoral system, the president-tribune could constitute a popularly established check on MPs, the government, and other elites. In such a case, the introduction of the direct election could be viewed not as a systemic flaw but as an integrative feature strengthening the system of checks and balances.

Jaroslava Pospíšilová Who is mobilized by the presidential election?

The concept of representative democracy presupposes the participation of active citizens. A significant drop in the interest and trust of citizens was observed with the onset of the new millennium, not only in voter turnout. However, the Czech president traditionally enjoys quite high support from citizens and leads (except for a few fluctuations) in surveys ranking their trust in politicians. This corresponds to the high interest of voters in participating in the presidential elections, which has gradually increased and, in the last presidential election (2023) in the second round, reached the third-highest level in the history of the independent Czech Republic. The regression analysis results confirm that participation in elections is mainly determined by previous participation; however, a highly personalized election with significant media coverage can also mobilize different types of voters than the general election. Factors of social exclusion such as the rate of distraints and the rate of unemployment retain their negative influence on voter turnout even in the presidential election.

Aleš Michal; Michal Malý; Petr Hrebenár ‚I will not be a mere wreath layer!‘ Analysis of the presidential refusal to appoint cabinet ministers in the Czech Republic

The discrepancy between the constitutionally defined and actual exercise of the power of state institutions has been widely discussed within European political science. The adoption of direct presidential elections in the Czech Republic, where the law entered into force in 2012, and the associated shift towards a more powerful presidency has also prompted much debate. The sovereign perception of the mandate of the first directly elected president, Miloš Zeman, intensified academic discussions about the implications of a change in regime type (from a parliamentary one towards a de facto semi-presidential one). While scholars have differing views on this matter, only a few academic articles have focused on the crucial aspects of presidential power, with most rather assessing the overall regime character instead. This paper views the appointment of cabinet members as an essential non-shared presidential power, emphasizing interactions among actors in the political system. A comparative case study enables us to explore situations where three Czech presidents adopted authoritative approaches in exercising their powers. We present a new dataset that uses qualitative analysis to examine incidences when a president delayed the process of appointing cabinet members, representing a deviation from the praxis of cabinet domination in a parliamentary regime. Comparing the three Czech presidents – two elected indirectly and one directly elected – enables us to assess the impact of the popular vote in this regard. Focusing on a temporal dimension allows for comparison of the periods of delay between a publicly declared effort to reject candidates till the moment of their appointments (or withdrawal). The key findings consist of the significant difference between indirectly elected presidents and their directly elected counterparts in appointing cabinet members. The paper contributes to the debate about the discrepancy between constitutionally defined powers, their exercising in reality, and a shift from parliamentarism to semi-presidentialism.

Gor Vartazaryan; Kateřina Ochodková Czech Presidents In Trouble: How Successful Can The System Be Against Presidential Misbehaviour?

Presidents in parliamentary regimes are generally less powerful in their competencies and serve more as moderators of political disputes rather than as the main actors of executive power. Despite this, they can often appear at the edge of constitutionality in the performance of their powers. In Central Europe, it is the President of the Czech Republic who finds the greatest discrepancy between written and politically practised powers. Constitutional actors can bring a constitutional lawsuit, a competence lawsuit, or activate against the president Article 66, transferring the performance of certain duties to the other constitutional actors. Often, however, these instruments are not used. Semi-structured interviews with experts (N = 6) in the field of constitutional law revealed to us that the Czech president has broader powers than the Constitution gives him because many constitutional actors do not file a lawsuit even if they had a significant possibility of winning. Our analysis also showed that there are some cases where the experts disagree among themselves such as on the appointment of the governor of Czech National Bank. At the same time, this work revealed the different approaches of the individual presidents in the situations studied.

Pavlína Kutnarová; Vít Hloušek An Unorthodox Euro-federalist: Miloš Zeman’s Changing Discourse on European Integration

This paper deals with the changing discourses of former Czech president Miloš Zeman on European integration and the European Union. Together with his predecessors Václav Havel and Václav Klaus, Zeman symbolises the period of democratic transition and consolidation after the Velvet Revolution and, as prime minister from 1998–2002 and president from 2013–2023, he co-formulated Czech European politics. Although labelling himself a Eurofederalist, Zeman never spared any effort to criticise the EU. The paper assumes that the change in his Eurosceptic discourse was due to the institution of direct presidential elections. Zeman followed the Czech political mainstream, which is softly Eurosceptic. Moreover, Zeman’s Eurosceptic critique of the EU corresponded with the positions shared by his electorate. Euroscepticism, therefore, helped Zeman’s re-election in 2018. The authors analyse key texts from various periods of Zeman’s political career to describe and interpret his discourses on the EU in particular and European integration in general, to demonstrate that beyond the façade of his Euro-federalism, one can find a specific version of the mainstream Czech Eurosceptic discourse.



Michal Malý Review: CHADIMA, Jan (2022). Rudolf Slánský. Praha: Vyšehrad, 448 p. ISBN 978-80-7601-623-1.