Political storm erupts over House Speaker's hospital visit to President Zeman

Police say they will investigate the possibility that President Zeman’s signature was forged on a document convening the next Czech parliament.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 15.10.2021 14:29 (updated on 15.10.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

Visiting rights to Czech President Miloš Zeman while he remains in hospital will be restricted with direct contact to be denied by security guards to all who did not get prior consent from the President’s doctor, according to the police.

The announcement came after the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Radek Vondráček broke hospital rules by visiting President Zeman without permission from his medical team. During the meeting, Vondráček claims to have obtained Zeman’s signature for a document convening the first meeting of the next Czech parliament on November 8. Prague Central Military Hospital (ÚVN) reacted with anger to Vondráček’s visit.

The issue has been plunged further into controversy as police declaring they will check the possibility that someone with access to the President forged his signature for the vital document. A criminal complaint was filed with the High Public Prosecutor’s Office in Prague on Thursday, after the letter was shown to journalists by Vondráček, on suspicion that the signature had been forged.

The complaint claims that the President’s signature does not resemble that seen previously on other documents. The unknown author therefore said “I believe this document was not signed by the President of the Republic, but by someone usurping his authority and pretending to be the President.”

Vondráček later rubbished claims the signature was forged. He said Zeman summoned him for the purpose of signing the document and told him in hospital “I am signing it right in front of you so that you have no doubt that this is the real will of the President.”

Vondráček also claimed the President was in an improved condition, “telling jokes and in a good mood.” ÚVN subsequently distanced itself from the Speaker’s assessment of the President’s health, which included the assertion that there is no need for the transferal of presidential functions.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš criticized Vondráček for visiting Zeman without the consent of medical staff, arguing the Speaker should have taken into consideration national tension surrounding the state of the President’s health. Babiš is still waiting for permission from ÚVN director Miroslav Zavoral for a visit to Zeman to discuss post-election negotiations.

“This is a gross mistake by my colleague, who did not inform me about his visit,” said Babiš. “I would certainly talk to the director and ask whether such a visit would be suitable.”

Petr Fiala, the leader of the SPOLU coalition which defeated Babiš’s ANO in the general election held last weekend, has also requested a meeting with the President.

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