PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) — More than the past 10 a long time, Czech President Milos Zeman has courted controversy, searching for a referendum on whether or not his place should leave the European Union, concentrating on migrants, and joking about killing journalists.

Lots of Czechs will cheer the departure of their outgoing head of point out Wednesday — with just one activist team preparing to burn a Zeman effigy and forged the ashes into Prague’s Vltava River.

Zeman will be replaced in the mostly ceremonial put up by retired military basic Petr Pavel, who defeat a populist billionaire in the 2nd round of presidential elections on Jan 28. Pavel formally will take over Thursday.

In his two consecutive conditions in office environment, Zeman, 78, has polarized public belief. A divided country to which he contributed will be the most visible legacy of his reign even though a great deal of his political agenda at residence and abroad unsuccessful.

Even though his predecessors, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus, ended up elected by Parliament, when previous prime minister Zeman took the workplace in 2013 it was in a direct vote by the Czech general public. His ally Andrej Babis — who unsuccessfully ran in opposition to Pavel in January — grew to become finance minister the identical calendar year ahead of afterwards assuming the article of prime minister.

“It turned out that a directly elected president can convert semi-dictator if he has the will and faces a weak opponent in the prime minister,” claimed Vera Kovarova, a deputy speaker of Parliament’s reduce property from the STAN party.

File: Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) talks with Czech Republic President Milos Zeman through their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei home in the Black Sea vacation resort of Sochi, Russia, November 21, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Kremlin Pool Image by means of AP)

Zeman was regarded as more professional-European than his euroskeptic predecessor Klaus, but gradually employed each and every chance to attack the EU, like its strategy to tackle local climate change. Following Britain determined to depart the EU, he proposed a referendum on the country’s membership in the bloc — although indicating he would vote to keep.

He also sought nearer ties with China and became a top professional-Russian voice in EU politics.

His critics named him “a servant of the Kremlin” soon after he sided with Russia and forged question on the results of his country’s possess stability and intelligence solutions on the alleged participation of Russian spies in a enormous 2014 ammunition explosion.

Right after Russia invaded Ukraine past 12 months, Zeman condemned the “unprovoked act of aggression,” but he experienced opposed the preliminary EU sanctions in opposition to Russia immediately after the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Zeman declared he would target on financial diplomacy but his claims of Chinese investments truly worth billions of pounds hardly ever materialized and his hopes to raise ties with Russia arrived to a finish close with the invasion of Ukraine.

On the 25th anniversary of the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution that calendar year, protesters pelted him with eggs, sandwiches, and tomatoes, accusing him of betraying the motivation to human rights enshrined by Havel, the hero of the revolution.

Zeman was just one of the couple of European leaders to endorse Donald Trump’s bid for the White Home and aid his conclusion to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. His pro-Israeli views have been potentially the only component of his international plan that was positively welcomed in his nation, which is 1 of the strongest allies of Israel in the EU.

File: President Isaac Herzog (still left) awards his Czech counterpart, Miloš Zeman, with the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor in Prague on July 11, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Between other controversial acts, Zeman also joined Islamic extremist attacks in Europe to immigration, which he has explained as an “organized invasion.” And he made derogatory opinions about the #MeToo movement and transgender men and women, and vowed to veto legislation letting identical-sex marriages need to it be accredited by Parliament.

The media offered a further concentrate on. On his initially working day in business office, Zeman reported some journalists “brainwash” and “manipulate general public feeling.” He told Russian President Vladimir Putin through a assembly in China that there had been as well lots of journalists and some need to be “liquidated.”

At residence, Zeman was accused of striving to alter the Structure to his individual desires. In 2019, the upper property of Parliament, the Senate, voted to cost him with failing to act in line with the Constitution in 8 circumstances, which include a repeated failure to appoint proposed govt ministers. But the lower house dominated by Babis’ bash did not adhere to suit and the case was in no way despatched to the Constitutional Courtroom for a final verdict.

In 2013, subsequent the collapse of a govt, Zeman dismissed a coalition that had a greater part in Parliament and named a new federal government of technocrats led by his adviser as key minister. Most constitutional lawyers and authorities claimed he had no right to do it.

File: Czech Republic’s President Milos Zeman welcomes his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, on August 26, 2021. (AP Photograph/Petr David Josek)

That Cupboard missing a assurance vote but remained in electric power for half a 12 months until an early election, pushing some of Zeman’s jobs, like an synthetic waterway that would link rivers in Austria, Poland, and Czechia. Gurus dismissed the project as unrealistic and it was not long ago absolutely abandoned by the current governing administration.

Zeman is a chain smoker with a comfortable spot for liquor but has explained he changed his habits at his doctors’ assistance. He has diabetic issues, has difficulties going for walks, and has been utilizing a wheelchair.

Zeman has said he will settle in his new residence in close proximity to the presidential chateau in Lany, west of Prague, and he is preparing to open an workplace close to Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency.

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