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Czech Politics

The Czech Republic is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, with the Prime Minister as head of government. The Parliament (Parlament České republiky) is bicameral, with the Chamber of Deputies (Czech: Poslanecká sněmovna) (200 members) and the Senate (Czech: Senát) (81 members).

The President of the Czech Republic is elected directly by the voters a five-year term, with no more than two consecutive terms. The president is a formal head of state with limited specific powers, most importantly to return bills to the parliament, nominate constitutional court judges for the Senate's approval and dissolve the parliament under certain special and unusual circumstances. He also appoints the prime minister, as well the other members of the cabinet on a proposal by the prime minister.

The Prime Minister is the head of government and wields considerable powers, including the right to set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policy, mobilize the parliamentary majority and choose government ministers.

The members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected for a four-year term by proportional representation, with a 5% election threshold. There are 14 voting districts, identical to the country's administrative regions. The Chamber of Deputies, the successor to the Czech National Council, has the powers and responsibilities of the now defunct federal parliament of the former Czechoslovakia.

The members of the Senate are elected in single-seat constituencies by two-round runoff voting for a six-year term, with one-third elected every even year in the autumn. The first election was in 1996, for differing terms. This arrangement is modeled on the U.S. Senate, but each constituency is roughly the same size and the voting system used is a two-round runoff. The Senate is unpopular among the public and suffers from low election turnout, overall roughly 30% in the first round and 20% in the second.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_republic

 

The President of the Czech Republic is Miloš Zeman, born 28 September 1944.  He was elected as the third President of the Czech Republic in early 2013. He is the first directly elected president in Czech history.  As formal head of state, the president is granted specific powers such as the right to nominate Constitutional Court judges, dissolve parliament under certain conditions, and enact a veto on legislation. Presidents had been elected by the parliament for 5-year terms, but parliament passed an amendment to the constitution in 2012 that changed the method of presidential election to direct popular vote beginning in 2013. The presidential term remains 5 years with a limit of two consecutive terms.

The legislature is bicameral, with a Chamber of Deputies (200 seats) and a Senate (81 seats). With the split of the former Czechoslovakia, the powers and responsibilities of the now-defunct federal parliament were transferred to the Czech National Council, which renamed itself the Chamber of Deputies. Chamber delegates are elected from 14 regions--including the capital, Prague--for 4-year terms, on the basis of proportional representation. The Czech Senate is patterned after the U.S. Senate and was first elected in 1996; its members serve for 6-year terms with one-third being elected every 2 years.

The country's highest court of appeal is the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court, which rules on constitutional issues, is appointed by the president. Its members serve 10-year terms.

Parliamentary elections were held in May 2010, and a center-right coalition government was formed of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the formerly local Prague party Public Affairs (VV), and the newly formed TOP 09. Former Labor Minister Petr Nečas of ODS became Prime Minister.

The Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004, and held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January 1 to June 30, 2009.

Principal Government Officials

President-- Miloš Zeman

Prime Minister--Bohuslav Sobatka

Foreign Minister--Lubomír Zaorálek

Defense Minister--Martin Stropnický

Czech Ambassador to Washington--Petr Gandalovič

The Embassy of the Czech Republic is located at 3900 Spring of Freedom Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-274-9101).

For over a decade, the Czech Republic has made significant contributions to coalition and NATO operations in Afghanistan, including the establishment of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar Province. Czech Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams and Air Mentoring Teams provide training and assistance to Afghan security forces.

Over the past two decades, the Czech Armed Forces have been gradually transformed from a Warsaw Pact-era force of 200,000 to that of a NATO Ally whose 30,000 troops are more mobile, deployable, and interoperable. Major strides have been made in reforming the military personnel structure, and efforts are underway to increase the efficiency and transparency of the military acquisition system, and to improve the quality of long- and medium-range strategic planning. Compulsory military service ended in December 2004. After becoming a NATO member in 1999, the Czechs spent roughly 2% of GDP on defense through 2005; however, the defense budget has been gradually shrinking since then, and now represents barely 1% of GDP, with projected cuts threatening to take it well below 1% in the next 2 years.

From 1948 until 1989, the foreign policy of Czechoslovakia followed that of the Soviet Union. Following independence, the Czechs made integration into Western institutions their chief foreign policy objective.

The Czech Republic became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), along with Poland and Hungary, on March 12, 1999. Public support for NATO remains high. The Czech Republic became a full member of the European Union on May 1, 2004. Both events are milestones in the country's foreign policy and security orientation. The Czech Republic successfully completed its first-ever EU Presidency during the first half of 2009.

The Czech Republic is a member of the United Nations and participates in its specialized agencies. It is a member of the World Trade Organization. It maintains resident embassies in 83 countries, and 163 countries have permanent representation in Prague.

Millions of Americans have their roots in Bohemia and Moravia, and a large community in the United States has strong cultural and familial ties with the Czech Republic. President Woodrow Wilson and the United States played a major role in the establishment of the original Czechoslovak state on October 28, 1918. President Wilson's 14 Points, including the right of ethnic groups to form their own states, were the basis for the union of the Czechs and Slovaks. Tomas Masaryk, the father of the state and its first President, visited the United States during World War I and worked with U.S. officials in developing the basis of the new country. Masaryk used the U.S. Constitution as a model for the first Czechoslovak constitution

After World War II, and the return of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, normal relations continued until 1948, when the communists seized power. Relations cooled rapidly. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 further complicated U.S.-Czechoslovak relations. The United States referred the matter to the UN Security Council as a violation of the UN Charter, but no action was taken against the Soviets.

Following the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989, bilateral relations improved immensely. Dissidents once sustained by U.S. encouragement and human rights policies reached high levels in the government. In 1990, President Havel, in his first official visit as head of Czechoslovakia, addressed the U.S. Congress and was interrupted 21 times by standing ovations. On the first anniversary of the revolution, President George H.W. Bush pledged U.S. support in building a democratic Czechoslovakia in front of an enthusiastic crowd on Prague's Wenceslas Square.

Toward this end, the U.S. Government has actively encouraged political and economic transformation.

The U.S. Government was initially opposed to the idea of Czechoslovakia forming two separate states, due to concerns that a split might aggravate existing regional political tensions. However, the U.S. recognized both the Czech Republic and Slovakia on January 1, 1993. Since then, U.S.-Czech relations have remained strong economically, politically, and culturally.

Relations between the U.S. and the Czech Republic are excellent and reflect the common approach both have to the many challenges facing the world at present. The U.S. looks to the Czech Republic as a partner in issues ranging from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and seeks opportunities to continue to deepen this relationship.