Several Ministers Will Not Attend Zeman’s Final Independence Day Award Ceremony

Zeman has been criticised for being selective with invitations to the event at Prague Castle. Photo credit: Zenon Moreau / Brno Daily. 

Prague, Oct 25 (CTK) – A number of ministers from the five-party government of Petr Fiala will not attend President Milos Zeman’s award-giving ceremony at Prague Castle on the national holiday on Friday, 28 October, for various reasons. Some were not invited, some have other work duties, and others do not wish to attend, they told CTK.

No politicians from the junior government Pirates or TOP 09 will come to the ceremony, the parties announced on Twitter yesterday.

Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky (Pirates), who has received much criticism from Zeman, has not been invited to the event, according to a report from Pravo. “Fortunately, I thus need not decide whether to attend it or not,” Lipavsky told the newspaper.

Deputy PM and Regional Development Minister Ivan Bartos (Pirates) has been invited, but cannot attend as he will be chairing an international conference on rural development in Lednice, South Moravia, related to the Czech EU presidency.

Deputy PM and Health Minister Vlastimil Valek (TOP 09) wrote on Twitter that he would not attend Zeman’s ceremony, as he objected to the Presidential Office not having invited some constitutional officials.

“We are again witnessing how the president is selecting in an undignified manner which elected officials he will invite or not, to the Castle where he is a temporary tenant. I do not intend to participate in this,” Valek tweeted.

PM Fiala (ODS) said on Monday that he would attend the ceremony, though he disliked Zeman’s selective approach to inviting guests. Fiala noted that this was not Zeman’s private celebration but a traditional event organised to mark the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia.

He added that most guests would come to the official celebration of the country’s national holiday. “They rightfully expect me to be present,” the PM said.

The server reported at the weekend that the chair of the Chamber of Deputies, Marketa Pekarova Adamova (TOP 09), and Milos Vystrcil (ODS), who is soon likely to be re-elected as the Senate chairman, had not received invitations from Zeman.

The Pirates announced on social media later that none of their politicians would attend “Milos Zeman’s event”. Alongside Bartos and Lipavsky, the Pirate Party’s Michal Salomoun is Minister for Legislation in the cabinet, and Olga Richterova is a deputy chair of the Chamber of Deputies.

Some ministers, such as outgoing Environment Minister Anna Hubackova (KDU-CSL), Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Sikela (STAN) and Minister for European Affairs Mikulas Bek (STAN), have excused themselves for work reasons. Deputy PM and Labour and Social Affairs Minister Marian Jurecka (KDU-CSL) will be abroad on 28 October.

Along with Fiala, Education Minister Vladimir Balas (STAN) and Agriculture Minister Zdenek Nekula (KDU-CSL) will attend the event at Prague Castle.

Defence Minister Jana Cernochova (ODS) should also be present, as she is to accept the order being awarded to the executed anti-Nazi resistance fighter Josef Masin in memoriam. His daughter Zdena Masinova refused to take the order from Zeman’s hands.

Most ODS ministers, as well as Interior Minister Vit Rakusan (STAN), have not publicly confirmed their participation at the president’s award ceremony on 28 October.

Culture Ministry spokeswoman Petra Hrusova told CTK yesterday that Culture Minister Martin Baxa (ODS) would attend a commemorative event and celebration of Czechoslovakia’s independence in Plzen, West Bohemia, on 28 October, like every year.

According to CTK sources, various lawmakers, regional governors and university rectors will also not take part in the event. Many of them had not been invited to the event as of last Friday, and some rectors intend to excuse themselves for work reasons or foreign trips.

TOP 09 deputy group head Jan Jakob also said today that he would not come. “A year from now, I am looking forward to a president who will not divide society and will not turn the celebration of a public holiday into a private party,” said Jakob.

The previous award ceremony at Prague Castle took place in March, when Zeman hosted those who he had awarded medals and orders in 2020 and 2021. In those years, the ceremonies were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, and due to Zeman’s hospitalisation, respectively.

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