The pen is mightier than the presidency
Posted: March 13, 2013
In one of many recent escapades hinting at the future nature of the Zeman presidency, the soon-to-be head of state made a show of refusing to accept a pen valued at 1 million Kč given to him by the company Kohinoor for the purpose of signing the presidential oath.
"I recommended the company instead spend this million on school supplies for pupils in its region," he later said.
The statement, delivered at a time when the outgoing President Václav Klaus battled his political opponents and was compelled to defend himself against the Senate's charges of high treason, provides us with a glimpse of how the Zeman years will unfold.
Two years ago, Klaus - known for his love of high-end writing utensils - became the object of international amusement after a video that showed him pilfering a pen during a state visit to Chile went viral. More recently, many reminisced on the incident as a winsome crowd celebrated his departure from office with public performances and effigy burning.
As the leaders of the country's two major political parties, Klaus and Zeman had always stood on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but forged a strategic partnership through the so-called "opposition treaty" that allowed Zeman to preside over a minor coalition government 1998-2002. During this January's presidential election, many observers speculated Zeman's presidency would allow Klaus to remain active in the backdrop of national politics, thus perpetuating the era of opaque dealings associated with the opposition treaty.
Zeman's recent populist pen jab at Klaus, already set upon by his political rivals, indicates such an alliance will not be in the cards, at least for the time being. According to media reports, the pair had failed to see eye to eye in a meeting following Zeman's election victory. Shortly afterward, the political obedience Klaus had always enjoyed began to crumble, culminating in the high treason charge.
Several days ago, as a triumphant Zeman took the presidential oath, Klaus was unable to hide his dejected demeanor as he bid his final farewell to Prague Castle. (Journalists present at the event said they had never seen him looking so gloomy.) And while this newspaper has always taken a critical stance toward his escapades, we find ourselves sorry to see him go.