The end of an era: A look back at Zeman’s most outrageous moments on his last day in office

The outgoing Czech president earned a place in history due to his political affinities with Russia and China, controversial views, and personal habits.

Ioana Caloianu

Written by Ioana Caloianu Published on 08.03.2023 19:30:00 (updated on 09.03.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

As President Miloš Zeman's second presidential mandate ends today, let's have a look at the good, the bad, and the funny moments in the last decade, including some moments that made for some amusing and often bizarre video memories.

A divisive, yet popular, figure

Zeman has been repeatedly criticized for his friendly attitude toward China and for promoting collaboration with the country as the Asian state faces allegations of human rights violations.

His pro-Russian stance dampened toward the end of his mandate, and in his Christmas message to the nation last December he said that Russian aggression was a threat to global and Czech security. He also recounted highlights of his term in office and said that in retirement he would remember his supporters and forget about his critics.

Miloš Zeman during his 2021 Christmas address. Photo: Miloš Zeman - prezident České republiky
Miloš Zeman during his 2021 Christmas address. Photo: Miloš Zeman - prezident České republiky

He also drew criticism in 2020 for saying that the slogan of the U.S. protests, Black Lives Matter, is racist because all lives matter. His views on transgender people, whom he called “disgusting,” also made international headlines and sparked a storm of negative comments on social media.

Still, his populist rhetoric earned him many domestic supporters, with a Public Opinion Research Centre (CVVM) poll conducted in 2019 showing Zeman to be the second most trusted constitutional official.

People held up red boxer shorts during President Milos Zeman's appearance to protest against his past actions. Source: Twitter/@
The infamous red boxer shorts. Source: Twitter/@vader254

The disenchantment that others felt was best summed up by protesters in January, who brought to Prague Castle a box with items symbolizing Zeman's presidency. These were a bottle of Becherovka, an inflatable boat, and red boxer shorts, which referred to a 2015 prank in which artists from the Ztohoven collective replaced the presidential flag with red boxer shorts.

Candid moments on camera

During a 2017 visit to the Pilsen region, Zeman received an assault rifle with the inscription "for journalists" and a bottle of Becherovka instead of a cartridge clip, which he seemed keen on testing, according to Aktuálně.cz. The gift was a reference to his self-confessed dislike for journalists.

During the 2018 election campaign, a topless activist with "Zeman, Putin’s Slut" written across her chest stole the spotlight from Zeman at a polling station, RFE/RL reported. He later said he felt "honored to be attacked by a member of the Femen movement, which has also attacked the pope."

A man of simple pleasures, Zeman has repeatedly professed his love for paddling in a pond near his chata in the Vysočína region, iDnes reports. Before climbing onto his yellow rubber boat, Zeman called this "an annual ceremony that I won't miss for the rest of my life." He added that even if he were on crutches, "I will put the crutches away, someone will load me into a boat, maybe my wife and I will have a good swim."

IN QUOTES - Top 10 Zeman witticisms

  • The fall of communism began in 1969 - with the Americans landing on the moon.
  • Becherovka is a pleasant treat, whether at 10 in the morning or late at night.
  • My relationship with vegetables is entirely positive. However, I ask that an intermediate link, called a pig, be inserted between me and them.
  • Tobacco prevents Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. You die of lung cancer before you get these diseases.
  • You know what bothers me? So-called political deputies. They will sit there, they will have a well-equipped office, they will comb their hair, because they have no other job.
  • Politics is above all a fight against stupidity, including one's own stupidity.
  • The basic managerial rule is that a manager should surround himself with people who are smarter than himself. Few rules have been so massively violated in management practice as this one.
  • In my opinion, investing in people is many times more effective than simply investing in concrete, no matter what we build from that concrete.
  • I would have all football fans beaten up regardless of their background.
  • A politician can be loved, a politician can be hated, but a politician must never become ridiculous.
  • Source: Blesk
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