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Czech turmoil over removing ailing President Zeman’s powers

ART GALLERY

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has called on the head of the president’s office to resign immediately over alleged impropriety in exercising the powers of ailing President Milos Zeman.

Police are looking into allegations of “crimes against the republic.”

President Zeman is currently in critical condition in a hospital.

He was admitted a day after elections in which the center-right opposition effectively ended Mr Babis’s chances of staying in power.

Now, bombshell revelations by Senate Chairman Milos Vystrcil have thrown Czech politics into disarray.

For more than a week, the president’s office has insisted that Mr Zeman’s undisclosed illness does not prevent him from carrying out his constitutional responsibilities.

The president of the Senate, on the other hand, claims to have received official confirmation from the director of Prague’s Central Military Hospital that the president is “incapable of fulfilling any of his working responsibilities” – in other words, unable to perform his duties.

President Zeman was admitted to this hospital in Prague the day after Czech elections

The role of the Czech president is largely ceremonial, but it gains significance after an election: it is the president who asks someone to form a new government.

He also accepts outgoing prime ministers’ resignations and convenes parliament.

As a result of Mr Zeman’s indisposition, the smooth operation of that process is called into question.

A meeting on 14 October, when President Zeman’s senior aide, Vratislav Mynar, escorted lower house chair Radek Vondracek to see Mr Zeman – a lifelong chain smoker and heavy drinker – in an ICU unit, is now drawing special attention.

The hospital director, who is also Mr Zeman’s personal doctor, did not approve Mr Vondracek’s brief visit. He did, however, emerge with a letter signed by the president, reconvening parliament on November 8th.

According to the Senate President, the hospital informed Mr. Mynar on October 13 that President Zeman was completely unfit to work.

Police are now looking into the circumstances of that meeting, including possible “crimes against the republic,” which include offences like subversion, sabotage, and treason under Czech law.

They’re even looking into claims that the president’s signature on the letter was forged.

There is also significant political fallout.

Mr Babis, who has been in an uneasy alliance with President Zeman until now, has demanded that Mr Mynar resign immediately as head of the president’s office.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis has called on the head of Mr Zeman’s presidential office to resign

If not, he says he will fire him using presidential powers granted to him if parliament relieves Mr Zeman of his duties by invoking Article 66 of the Czech constitution.

However, this will not be possible until the newly elected lower house convenes for the first time on November 8th.

Mr Vondracek, a member of Mr Mynar’s ANO party, has also been chastised by the prime minister for being used as a “useful idiot” by Mr Mynar.

Meanwhile, there is still no word on the president’s exact diagnosis, which is 77 years old.

According to his personal doctor, patient confidentiality dictates that all he can say is that Mr Zeman is being treated for complications related to his chronic conditions, which in his case are Type 2 diabetes and neuropathy in his lower limbs.

According to widespread reports in Czech media, including one backed up by seven independent sources familiar with his health, he is suffering from serious complications from liver cirrhosis.

According to the reports, these complications include ascites, a buildup of abdominal fluid, and hepatic encephalopathy, which can impair cognitive function.

The White House has not responded to those claims, instead thanking those who have wished the president a speedy recovery and urging them to continue to pray for him.

According to the hospital report cited by the Senate Chairman, President Zeman’s prognosis is “extremely unclear,” and his return to work in the coming weeks is “highly unlikely.”

SourceBBC
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