Senate session on transfer of powers set for November 9

A regularly updated article with all the latest news on the state of the Czech president’s health amid post-election talks.


Written by ČTK Published on 18.10.2021 12:11:00 (updated on 26.10.2021) Reading time: 10 minutes

This is a regularly updated feed related to the events surrounding the health condition of Czech president Miloš Zeman.

Oct 26, 2021 / 11.52 a.m. – The Senate will meet to deal with the transfer of President Milos Zeman's powers over his poor health condition on November 9.

On Sunday, Senate chairman Miloš Vystrčil (ODS) already mentioned November 9 as a possible date for the session.

The Senate leadership said they chose the date to tie in with the first meeting of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, which will convene for the first time on November 8. The lower house will probably only decide on a transfer of powers in a subsequent session.

As previously stated, Miloš Vystrčil will ask the Central Military Hospital (ÚVN) in Prague for another report on the prognosis of the president's health condition before the end of the first week of November.

Oct 22, 2021 / 11.00 p.m. – The video shown by Presidential Office head Vratislav Mynář at a press conference yesterday does not change anything regarding next steps in the formation of a new government, the leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Petr Fiala has said.

Zeman is not required to do anything in relation to the transition of power until November 8, and if Article 66 of the Czech constitution is to be activated, a report from hospital from early November will prove decisive, Fiala said.

The leader of TOP 09, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, said the video published by Mynář confirmed only that Zeman was surrounded by people with low moral integrity. The video attracted widespread criticism because none of the people present in the hospital were wearing face masks, as they are required to do by Covid regulations. A spokesperson for Prague’s Central Military Hospital (ÚVN) confirmed that the visitors broke the rules by not wearing respirators.

Speaker of the House Radek Vondráček, who appeared in the video, claimed he took off his respirator when meeting Zeman because the President could not understand him.

The leader of the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), Tomio Okamura, meanwhile said the video showed Zeman should not be relieved of any of his powers.

Oct 21, 2021 / 15.45 p.m. – Castle Chancellor Vratislav Mynář refuted allegations that he or anybody else would manipulate or falsify the president's signature during a press conference at Prague Castle. To prove his innocence, Mynář showed a video in which Miloš Zeman signs the controversial document convening the new Chamber of Deputies on November 8.

Zeman has been in the Central Military Hospital (ÚVN) since October 10, and details of his health condition have not been published by Prague Castle or the hospital. 

Mynář has faced fierce criticism for bringing the Speaker of the House, Radek Vondráček (ANO), to meet Zeman for the signing of the document calling the new Chamber of Deputies. This happened at a time when Mynář knew the hospital considered Zeman incapable of working. Politicians have called for Mynář’s resignation, but Mynář has said he will only leave if fired by Zeman himself.

At the press conference, Mynář also confirmed that the state honors ceremony typically held at Prague Castle on October 28 will be postponed due to Zeman’s ill health. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš had earlier called for the ceremony to be moved to a later date due to the President’s condition.

Oct. 20, 2021 / 14.00 p.m. – The annual ceremony of bestowing state honors at Prague Castle held on October 28 should be postponed if President Miloš Zeman is unable to present them in person, PM Andrej Babis said, adding that he would not like to replace Zeman at the event.

Babiš (ANO) will confirm the list of people to receive awards today.

"I will definitely not present any honors, this would not be suitable. The event should be postponed instead," Babis said.

He also said he would consider it inappropriate if Presidential Office head Vratislav Mynář presented the state honors after "all he has done."

Mynář brought house Speaker Radek Vondráček to meet Zeman at the intensive care unit without his attending doctor's awareness and consent. (ČTK)

Oct. 19, 2021 / 5.00 p.m. – Presidential Office head Vratislav Mynář claims only President Miloš Zeman has the right to sack him, following calls for his resignation from the Prime Minister.

PM Andrej Babiš (ANO) called on Mynář to resign today. Babis said if Mynar did not do this in his own right, he would make the personnel change himself once the relevant presidential powers are transferred to him after the Constitution's Article 66 was activated.

"Milos Zeman is the President of the Republic who put me in this post, and only he has the right to dismiss me,” Mynář said.

The Czech Chamber of Deputies and the Senate meanwhile said they would ask Prague’s Central Military Hospital (ÚVN) for another report on whether the President can still perform the duties of the head of state before it decides on transferring his powers in November, according to opposition leader Petr Fiala.

He said party leaders agreed on this at their meeting with the Senate today. The lower house will not decide on the transfer of powers at its first session, scheduled for November 8-10, but only at its subsequent session. (ČTK)

Oct 19, 2021 / 13.54 p.m. – The conditions for the transfer of presidential powers to the prime minister and the head of the lower house of the Czech parliament have been met, the Senate commission for the constitution has decided. The Senate will vote on the transfer of powers sooner than the lower house of parliament, probably on November 5.

The first session of the recently-elected new Chamber of Deputies is due on November 8.

The conditions for a power transfer, as defined by Article 66 of the Czech constitution, have been met due to the current state of health of President Miloš Zeman, 77, who has been in Prague's Central Military Hospital's (ÚVN) intensive care unit since October 10 and who, ÚVN says, is unable to carry out his work duties.

In a report given to the Senate, the ÚVN and Zeman's personal doctor Miroslav Zavoral wrote that the President is unable to perform his duties and change is unlikely in the weeks to come.

PM Andrej Babiš (ANO) told Czech Television today that he thinks Article 66 should not be triggered yet, with Zeman having only recently entered hospital and his post-election role not required until December.

But according to the Senate commission's secretary and constitutional lawyer Jan Kysela, there should not be a long time period between upper house and lower house sessions dealing with the Article 66 activation,

If needed, the transfer of presidential powers could remain in force until the end of Zeman's mandate in early 2023, but it could be cancelled by either of the two houses anytime by revoking its consent, Kysela said.

Oct 19, 2021 / 12.09 p.m. – Czech PM Andrej Babis (ANO) has called on Vratislav Mynář to resign as the head of the Presidential Office. If Mynář does not resign, Babiš will remove him after Article 66 of the constitution is activated.

"The whole situation that has arisen is the result of inappropriate and unacceptable activity on the part of Mynář, which is why it would be the best if he immediately resigned from his post. The things he has done are absolutely unacceptable," quoted Babiš as saying.

Article 66 allows for part of the President’s powers to be divided between the prime minister and the Chamber of Deputies chairperson if the President is incapacitated.

The police meanwhile said that will investigate a possible illegal action committed against the Czech Republic in connection with information about Zeman’s health presented on Monday.

Presidential office (KPR) head Vratislav Mynář knew the opinion of the ÚVN about Zeman’s inability to perform his duties when he enabled a meeting of Zeman with outgoing Chamber of Deputies chairman Radek Vondráček (ANO) on October 14, at which Zeman signed a decision calling the new Chamber of Deputies on November 8.

Oct 18, 2021 / 6.43 p.m. – Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said he was ready to act and discuss further steps with Czech senior elected officials in response to today's news from the Central Military Hospital (UVN) that President Miloš Zeman is unable to perform any working duties.

The UVN, cited by Senate chairman Miloš Vystrčil (Civic Democratic Party, ODS), said the long-term prognosis of Zeman's health was very uncertain.

Babiš said the news was not good.

He said he was ready to discuss further steps with the top elected officials, the Senate and representatives of the government in the making, now being formed by the coalitions Together and the Pirates and Mayors and Independents (STAN).

The constitution stipulates that if the powers of a head of state are transferred, the majority of them go to the prime minister.

"This is naturally surprising information, certainly no good news. There is the question of whether this is a permanent condition or whether there is a chance to improve. I cannot judge this," Babiš said.

Now the steps are to be taken primarily by the Senate, because the term of the current Chamber of Deputies and its current head, Radek Vondráček (ANO), expires this Thursday. The newly elected deputies will meet on November 8.

Babiš declined to say whether this situation would bring about the transfer of presidential powers to other top elected officials during Zeman's indisposition.

"Right now, I am unable to say what will happen," Babiš said.

Vystrčil has announced that on Tuesday, the Senate board will meet to discuss the transfer of presidential powers with party leaders during the time Zeman will be unable to perform his duties.

Representatives of Senate groups say they cannot see any option but to transfer the presidential powers to the prime minister and head of the Chamber of Deputies.

Oct 18, 2021 / 6 p.m. – The Central Military Hospital (UVN) has announced that for health reasons, President Miloš Zeman is unable to perform any working duties, Senate head Miloš Vystrčil (Civic Democratic Party, ODS) told journalists today.

Vystrčil cited Miroslav Zavoral, the UVN director who is also Zeman's attending doctor.

On Tuesday, the Senate board will meet to discuss with party leaders the steps to be taken in order to transfer the powers from Zeman during his incapacity, Vystrčil said.

He also said the long-term prognosis of Zeman's health condition was extremely uncertain.

Zeman is very unlikely to return to his working duties in the weeks to come, Vystrcil said, referring to the UVN position.

Vystrčil said the head of the Presidential Office, Vratislav Mynar, had been informed about Zeman's health condition on October 13 already.

Earlier today, Mynar accused the Senate and Vystrcil of hypocrisy and self-promotion.

Oct 18, 2021 – In a press conference held on Monday afternoon at Prague Castle, the head of the presidential office Vratislav Mynář refused to give any details of President Zeman's health condition, instead criticizing Senate leader Miloš Vystrčil for requesting information about Zeman from Prague's Central Military Hospital (ÚVN).

ÚVN sent Senate leader Miloš Vystrčil an answer to his request on Monday morning. ÚVN announced the news on its website, adding that in accordance with patient confidentiality laws, the details of the answer will not be made public. In the press conference, Mynář accused the Senate of "hypocrisy" and of trying to unjustly strip Zeman of his powers. Questions were not allowed.

Vystrčil (ODS) said he has read the hospital’s report on Zeman’s health, and has sent it to members of the Senate leadership. He said that after consultations, he would like to release what information he can today, probably in the evening. Vystrčil will talk to data protection experts about "what it is and is not possible to release."

ÚVN director Miroslav Zavoral, the doctor treating Zeman, sent the answer to Vystrčil on Monday morning. On Friday, ÚVN spokeswoman Jitka Zinke said the hospital had received Vystrčil’s request and was treating it with the greatest importance and urgency.

Vystrčil made the request for information to ÚVN after the Presidential Office left his previous questions unanswered. He said senators do not want ÚVN to break any laws relating to medical confidentiality. Nevertheless, they want to know whether Zeman's state of health could impact his ability to function as head of state in the wake of the October 8-9 elections and the need to form a new cabinet.

Zeman, 77, was taken to ÚVN again on October 10 following his eight-day stay there in September. A week ago, Zavoral told media that Zeman was hospitalised at the ÚVN's intensive care ward over complications relating to his chronic health problems. He did not specify the diagnosis, as he did not have Zeman's consent to do so.

Information about Zeman's condition is crucial to possible discussions on the transferal of presidential powers to other constitutional officials as a result of Zeman's indisposition. Such a transfer would require consent from both houses of parliament.

The outgoing Chamber of Deputies' will disband on October 21, and the new Chamber will meet on November 8 for the first time. Current Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) should then hand in his cabinet's resignation to the President. Until that point, the President is not required for post-election negotiations to take place, senators say.

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