How to get rid of prime minister? With a gun, Czech president jokes

There can't be a Czech, who wouldn't agree that the Czech Republics' first-ever directly elected president, Milos Zeman, is no stranger to controversy. And he is proving himself again as he outrages politicians across parties with his remark about "removal" of prime minister Sobotka.

President Milos Zeman | Photo courtesy of Michał Józefaciuk

Czech president Milos Zeman | Photo courtesy of Michał Józefaciuk

Zeman, 71, who happens to be a former Social Democrat prime minister himself, has shocked government and opposition politicians alike on Monday. When asked at a public debate how people could get rid of the pro-migrant Sobotka, he suggested a Kalashnikov, referring to the iconic Russian-made machine gun.

“If you want to get rid of any politician, including the president, there is only one democratic way, and that is a free election, which will take place in a year,” Zeman said. “And then there is an undemocratic path that is called Kalashnikov,” the 71-year-old veteran leftwinger added and smiled. The audience responded with an applause.

Sobotka was not amused by the joke. “We are with a high probability the only country in the civilized world where the president can publicly call for the killing of the prime minister. I can deal with it, but it bothers me that Zeman scares my children, family, and friends,” the 44-year-old father of two small boys expressed his concerns over social media. He added that the president’s comments were silly and pointless.

Social Democrat and Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier tweeted that after promoting extremism and fascism, the president now supports political assassination. “Is there a limit that he will not go to?” he asked.

The Leader of the Christian and Democratic Union, Pavel Belobradek, and former finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, were also among those politicians who joined Sobotka in denouncing the president’s rhetoric.

Milos Zeman has been long known for his anti-migrant comments. He has previously called the current wave of refugees to Europe “an organized invasion,” and his opinion that instead of fleeing, young men from Syria and Iraq should take up arms against the IS have drawn fire from the government as well as the U.N human rights chief.

President’s spokesman, Jiri Ovcacek, later stated Czech News Agency that the president didn’t call for anyone’s elimination, and his words should be interpreted as hyperbole.