Opportunities and Limits of Presidential Activism : Czech presidents compared

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Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Politics in Central Europe
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web článek - open access
Doi http://dx.doi.org/10.2478/pce-2023-0032
Keywords presidential activism; direct elections; governments; legislative powers; Czechia; systemic risks
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Description This article analyses the use of powers by Czech presidents Václav Havel (1993–2003), Václav Klaus (2003–2013) and Miloš Zeman (2013–2023). The text is based on the concept of presidential activism, empirically examining mainly their interactions with governments and legislative vetoes. The results show that important incentives for presidential activism are non-cohesive coalition governments, minority governments, slim government majorities in parliament, the collapse of governments and a chaotic parliament. On the other hand, the internal cohesion of a government acts as a constraint on presidential activism. Popularly elected Zeman interpreted his powers much more widely in appointing and removing governments and ministers than Havel or Klaus, who were elected by parliament. By contrast, Zeman used his legislative powers less than his two predecessors, which was apparently influenced by their low success (with some exceptions) in this area. The president’s political proximity to the government was found to only sometimes limit his agility. Czech presidents have rarely been passive. A specific factor that affected activism was the poor health of Havel and Zeman at certain moments. To reduce systemic risks in the future, it would be useful to define more precisely the rules for appointing and dismissing a government and individual ministers.
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