CHARVÁT, Jakub; JUST, Petr a kol. První přímá volba prezidenta ČR v roce 2013
cesta k jejímu zavedení a okolnosti a politické důsledky první přímé volby
1st ed. Prague: Metropolitan University Prague Press, 2014. 245 s. ISBN 978-80-86855-96-7
The introduction of the direct presidential election in early 2012 is probably the biggest constitutional change during the first twenty years of the Constitution of the Czech Republic. Although the topic of introducing the direct election of the president has become essentially a permanent part of Czech political agenda at the latest around 2001, along with the approaching end of the second term of the first Czech president Vaclav Havel, it took more than a decade, before eventually direct election of the president became part of the Czech constitutional and political system. The whole process was moreover not without a number of twists and turns, and for a long time it seemed that although essentially all parliamentary parties more or less supported the introduction of the direct election of the president, at the end Czech lawmakers always failed to implement it. But in the end a compromise was found and the direct election of the president of the Czech Republic was passed in 2012.
Debate and the effort to introduce direct presidential elections were regularly activated in connection with the end of term of the president, or in periods prior to the general election, when this agenda became part of the pre-election political struggle between the candidate entities. The leaders of the main political parties widely used the issue of the introduction of direct presidential election for the purpose of obtaining the favor of undecided voters. However, a proposal for the introduction of direct elections of the president appeared quite purposefully, when the proposal had become a tool to enhance the chances for election of candidate for a particular political party.
The present collective monograph represents the ups and downs and the individual circumstances of the attempts to adopt the direct election of the president and at the same time presents selected aspects relating to the conduct and circumstances of the first direct presidential election presidential elections held in early 2013. The book is therefore divided into two parts. The first part is titled “On the way to the introduction of direct presidential election in the Czech Republic.” It comprises a total of four interrelated chapters that aim to briefly introduce the various legislative proposals to adopt direct presidential election since 1989, and the circumstances under which these proposals were made, and the broader context that influenced the development of the discussion on this issue (the first chapter ), followed by a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the possible introduction of direct presidential election in the political system of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic (second section), the analysis of the electoral reform process, which led to the direct election of the president at the beginning of 2012 (third chapter) and last but not least, the very definition of legislative institute direct election of the president to acquaint the readers with the changes in the role of the president, brought along with the introduction of direct presidential election in the Czech Republic in 2012 (fourth chapter).
The debate about whether such a constitutional amendment would be appropriate and necessary for the Czech political system absented in the framework of the political debate about the introduction of direct elections of the president. Moreover many professionals, especially among political scientists and experts in constitutional law rarely almost consensually agreed that the political system of the Czech Republic does not need the direct election of the head of state.
The proposal to introduce direct election of the president was submitted by all main Czech political parties except the Communists, whose (targeted) proposal to introduce direct election of the president submitted in December 1989 still falls into the period of federal Czechoslovakia. However, the Communists did not stay on this issue completely indifferent and the possibility of introducing direct election of the president was present in their electoral programs submitted before the parliamentary elections in 2006 and 2010. Although it may look that there was consensus on the introduction of direct presidential election between the main political parties, the opposite is true. Each of the political parties had their own idea of how the procedure of the direct election of the president should look and what other changes could possibly be connected with it. Representatives of political parties usually refused to support proposals to introduce direct presidential election presented by representatives of rival political parties.
The second part of the book was called “The course, circumstances and consequences of the direct election of the President of the Republic, held in 2013 – selected aspects” and is also composed of four chapters, which focus on the direct election of the president from different perspectives. The fifth chapter provides the legal view of selected provisions of the act on the election of the president (Act No. 275/2012 Coll.) relating to the control of so-called civil petitions of candidates, particular attention is paid to the previous practical application of this act by the Ministry of the Interior. The sixth chapter presents a content analysis of selected media during the height of the election campaign, with a focus on balance and neutrality in their coverage of the various presidential candidates. With the introduction of direct presidential election in the Czech Republic the role of the media strengthened; among other things, that they can operate directly on a large group of voters. For this reason it is beneficial to focus on how Czech media handled this new role. The seventh chapter is devoted to the use of political marketing in the first-ever direct presidential elections, in which the political marketing focused exclusively on the individual, not the political parties and their leaders, played one of the key roles. Last eighth chapter then examines the impact of the introduction of direct election of the president on the political and party system, which draws on the experience of the first year of the execution of the office of first directly elected president Miloš Zeman.
It was generally considered that one of the main negatives of the direct presidential election in the Czech Republic was the bias of the political system in favor of the president, though constitutionally the Czech Republic is a parliamentary regime. In this way, moreover, a number of significant comments from political scientists and constitutional law experts was made during debates on potential benefits and risks of introducing the direct election of the president. On the other hand, however, we can very well imagine that even indirectly elected president could act as we see from March 2013 in the case of Miloš Zeman, the first directly elected president of the Czech Republic. In this respect, therefore, we cannot be hundred percent sure that indirectly elected president would act differently than the president elected directly. The character and personality of individuals occupying the presidency plays also an important role in addition to the constitutional system configuration.
Although one can imagine the introduction of some constitutional mechanisms that weaken the president, their adoption would require a consensus among parties in both chambers of the Czech Parliament, in particular with regard to the requirement of qualified three-fifths majority and the application of symmetric bicameralism. In addition, many political parties may be discouraged from constitutional amendments effort no to incite the president against them. From this perspective, any correction of the president's constitutional status is currently unlikely.