Czech President Milos Zeman is hospitalized and unable to perform “any working duties for health reasons,” according to a letter signed by the director of a Prague military hospital, Dr. Miroslav Zavoral.
He is reported in stable condition, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Zeman, 77, has visited Israel multiple times and is considered a friend to the Jewish State. The Czech statesman – who is directly elected — is currently in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Zavoral said the president’s long-term prognosis is “very uncertain,” and added his return to his duties in the next several weeks is “very unlikely.”
That’s a problem because the country has just held an election for the lower parliament. Under the national constitution Zeman must accept the resignation of the government and appoint a new prime minister after the first session of the new parliament on November 8.
Zeman would have led talks on forming a new government after the vote a week ago Saturday but was taken to the hospital the day after the election, following a meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
The Czech president was admitted for complications from a diagnosis known but undisclosed publicly by his physicians at his request. He is diabetic, a heavy smoker and former heavy drinker who suffers from neuropathy in his legs, necessitating the use of a wheelchair, according to the BBC and Reuters.
Grim footage of the president being wheeled into the hospital, accompanied by his wife and daughter and with his head being held up by a bodyguard, was broadcast by Czech media, the BBC reported.
The Czech president was also hospitalized for eight days last month as well. At that time, his office said he was suffering from exhaustion and dehydration.
An October 10 BBC report cited several media outlets, including the national public broadcaster, Czech Radio, who quoted seven independent sources close to the president who said he was suffering from ascites, a build-up of abdominal fluid usually associated with cirrhosis of the liver.
The Czech Senate has submitted a request to the Prague Military Hospital for a prognosis of the health of the president, with regard to his ability to perform his duties, according to Radio Prague International.
Under the Czech constitution, if Zeman can’t carry out his executive functions, the prime minister and speakers of both houses of parliament will divide his duties between them.
In such a case, the newly elected speaker of the lower house will name the new prime minister after the first meeting of the new house on Nov. 8, when the house speaker and other officials will be elected.
Czech Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil said representatives of the senate and leaders of the parties elected to the lower house will meet to discuss a temporary transfer of presidential powers.
Cautious Friend to Israel
Zeman has visited the Jewish State multiple times, including a visit to the Dead Sea in 2013.
During a four-day visit to Israel in November 2018, Zeman told then-Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that he did not believe there can be an independent state for Palestinians in Gaza, and said he wanted to hear more about the one-state solution – one state for two peoples – which he understood was “provocative.”
Czech President Tells Rivlin No Chance for Palestinian State in Gaza
Zeman inaugurated “Czech House,” a Czech Cultural Center in Jerusalem as a prelude to plans to move the Czech Republic Embassy to the Israeli capital. He also addressed Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, during the visit.
Czech Republic Opening Consulate in Jerusalem, Moving Embassy ‘Later’
Earlier in that year – in April 2018 – Zeman announced the Czech Republic was planning to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in a three-phase transfer. But he gave no specific timetable for the embassy’s move, and adroitly avoided confirming the actual transfer.
“Last year, the Czech Republic has already expressed its position on Jerusalem as capital of the State of Israel, in its 1967 borders,” the statement read. “It thus only acknowledged what is standard practice by other States when making their official visits to Israel. According to usual diplomatic practice, States have their embassies in the capitals of the receiving States,” the Czech Foreign Ministry said at the time in a statement on its website.