Upper house

Hospitalized Czech president shown on video as his office counteracts criticism


Czech President Milos Zeman attends his investiture ceremony at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, March 8, 2018, after being re-elected. REUTERS / David W Cerny / File Photo

PRAGUE, October 21 (Reuters) – Assistants to Czech President Milos Zeman on Thursday showed video of him signing a decree to convene a new parliament while in hospital a week ago, seeking to defend their management of his hospitalization against charges of secrecy.

Zeman’s absence from the hospital coincided with a post-election period of political transition in which he is supposed to play a role, baffling politicians who have discussed triggering constitutional mechanisms to strip him of his powers.

Zeman’s office has said little about his health since he was taken to intensive care on October 10, a day after a parliamentary election, and the video was the first image of the sick president in hospital.

While his assistants and hospital officials said they were not allowed to speak about Zeman’s condition, the lack of information created uncertainty among many Czechs.

Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil on Monday cited a hospital report commissioned by his office that said Zeman was unable to perform his duties during intensive care and was unlikely to return to work soon. . Read more

At a press conference on Thursday, Zeman’s bureau chief Vratislav Mynar without question defended the bureau’s handling of hospitalization against media and political criticism for secrecy.

It showed a short video of Lower House Speaker Radek Vondracek meeting with Zeman, who signed a decree on the new parliament due to meet on November 8 while in a hospital bed and speaking to Vondracek and three other people, none of whom wore face masks.

According to the report from the Speaker of the Senate Upper House, the hospital informed Mynar of the seriousness of Zeman’s condition on October 13.

It was a day before Vondracek went to see Zeman on October 14, which Mynar said was at the president’s request.

Mynar told reporters that Zeman asked him to prepare the decree even before he was hospitalized.

Following the release of the hospital’s report by the Senate this week, police said on Tuesday they had opened an investigation into whether crimes had been committed but had not identified the target of their investigation. Read more

Opposition parties won a majority in the lower house elections on October 8-9 and announced they would form a government to overthrow Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who was backed by Zeman before the vote. Babis has vowed a smooth transition of power and this week joined calls for Mynar’s resignation.

Reporting by Jason Hovet, editing by William Maclean

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