On Tuesday, October 19, the Constitutional Commission of the Czech Senate will decide whether President Miloš Zeman is able to exercise his duties after recently being transported to the hospital. It will also clarify how to proceed if his health does not improve. In recent days, there have been growing concerns that Zeman can no longer properly administer his job responsibilities. Should it decide to do so, Parliament could activate Article 66 of the Constitution and remove presidential powers from Zeman. The president should currently mediate the talks about creating a new government after the elections.
“I wish the President a speedy recovery, but we are in a situation where it is necessary to have clearly stated procedures if a speedy recovery does not take place,” wrote Senator from the Mayors and Independent (STAN) movement Zdeněk Hraba on Facebook.
“We cannot afford to paralyze constitutional institutions because of possible health complications of the head of state. We will solve it in the Senate on October 19,” he added.
One of the possibilities mentioned by Hraba is activating Article 66 of the Constitution, i. e. declaring the President as incapable of exercising office.
Senator Marek Hilšer has already written on Twitter that he would be in favor of this.
“As a person, I wish Miloš Zeman a speedy recovery. But as a doctor, I know that he cannot exercise his office for at least some time. Therefore, as a senator, with respect for the Constitution, in these volatile times, I will support the temporary transition of the presidential duties to the Prime Minister and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies,” he wrote.
According to Deputy Prime Minister and newly elected ANO MP Karel Havlíček, removing President Miloš Zeman from his powers is premature, insensitive, and inappropriate.
“It’s very silly, and I think unnecessary,” commented Havlíček, adding that “being ill can happen to anyone.”
Havlíček also talked about the Sunday meeting of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš with Zeman, after which the President was transferred to the Central Military Hospital. Although the visit was supposed to be about the post-election negotiations, according to Havlíček, Babiš and Zeman discussed only personal matters.
Whether the Senate committee should vote on declaring President Zeman incapable of holding office has already been discussed twice, in June and July this year. At that time, however, the committee did not recommend taking such a step.
If the committee decided to do so, there would have to be an agreement on this by both chambers of Parliament, and an absolute majority of the deputies and senators present would have to vote in their favor. If they did, Zeman would remain in office, but the performance of his duties would pass partly to the Prime Minister and partly to the Speaker of the House.
However, as explained by Aleš Gerloch, a constitutional lawyer and vice-rector of Charles University, deputies and senators cannot make the decision just like that.
“It should be based on some specific documents, in this case on medical documentation or some medical report provided for this purpose,” he noted, adding that the respective law does not state health issues as a reason for removing presidential powers.
President Zeman was taken to the Central Military Hospital in Prague on Sunday. He now stays in the anesthesiology and resuscitation department. According to hospital spokeswoman Jitka Zinke, he is in stable condition and is being cared for by a team of healthcare professionals specializing in intensive care.
Zeman’s attending physician and hospital director, Miroslav Zavoral, said on Sunday that the reason for hospitalization was complications resulting from a chronic illness for which Zeman was being treated.