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Czech President will address national convention of xenophobic SPD party

8.12.2017 7:18
Czech President Miloš Zeman, 2017. (PHOTO: TV Barrandov)
Czech President Miloš Zeman, 2017. (PHOTO: TV Barrandov)

Czech President Miloš Zeman will attend the convention of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) party tomorrow. He is planning to give a speech there.

Presidential spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček announced the appearance on 6 December. The SPD convention will decide which candidate to endorse during the presidential election next month.

According to Ovčáček, however, Zeman's appearance at the convention is not part of his election campaign. The spokesperson also said he has not been informed as to whether the President is planning to pay a similar visit to the leadership of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM).

Zeman asked the communists for their endorsement prior to his victory as the first directly elected President of the Czech Republic, which saw him take office in 2013. His appearance at the SPD convention tomorrow has been confirmed by its chair, Tomio Okamura.

"It's good the head of state will appear at the statewide conference of the entity with the third-highest number of seats in the lower house," Okamura said. He claimed not to know what Zeman will speak about tomorrow.

According to the SPD chair, the convention will review the state of negotiations on forming a government, the preparations for the communal and Senate elections, and its upcoming conference on 16 December, which will be attended by affiliated political parties from elsewhere in Europe including, for example, the head of the Front National in France, Marine Le Pen. The only voting point of the convention will be the movement's eventual endorsement of a presidential candidate.

Okamura would not comment on whether the SPD might recommend to its voters that they choose Zeman. According to him, the convention delegates will assess the candidates who have a chance of election and consider whether they fulfill the four conditions the SPD is demanding.

Those conditions include support for "direct democracy", the rejection of "illegal migrants", and advocacy of "Czech national interests". The communists have also established conditions for their eventual endorsement of a presidential candidate.

The KSČM wants the next President to agree to speak with the party, to respect their program, to support the idea of taxing the financial value of the properties being restituted to religious organizations, and to support a law instituting a general referendum. Today the Executive Committee of the party will discuss its position on which presidential candidate to endorse.

KSČM Vice-Chair Josef Skála said in mid-November that he assumed a presidential candidate who is interested in the communists' endorsement would attend a session of the broader party leadership to seek it. Ovčáček has said he has no information about Zeman planning to pay such a visit to the communists.

Five years ago, as a candidate, Zeman did seek the communists' endorsement. Since announcing his candidacy he has insisted that he will not campaign.

The President has said he has not yet drawn on any of the financing in his campaign account. However, his candidacy has been promoted for the past several days by billboards that have appeared, for example, in the Strašnice district of Prague.

News server first reported the advertising. The posters depict Zeman with a photograph of Prague Castle and the slogan "Zeman Again 2018".

The publisher of the ad is listed as the "Friends of Miloš Zeman". Ovčáček said the billboard initiative did not come from the President himself.

Fliers including a petition in support of Zeman's candidacy have also already been previously distributed to mailboxes. The President has refused to call that effort part of his campaign.

Billboards have also appeared promoting a new book including interviews with Zeman. One of its co-authors is the President's spokesperson.

Tomáš Hudeček, a member of the Office for Oversight of Political Party Financing, said that if somebody conducts a campaign with the candidate's awareness, that candidate must include those costs as part of the campaign. If an activist campaigns without the candidate's awareness, he or she must register the campaign account with the Office prior to beginning the activities.

To date one firm and four individuals have registered with the authority. They are allowed to spend up to CZK 1 million [EUR 39 000]. 

Activists may also campaign against a specific candidate. Ovčáček told news server Aktuálně.cz that all of Zeman's re-election campaign costs will be accounted for as required by law.

th, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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