PRAGUE, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The inauguration of Milos Zeman as the president of the Czech Republic on March 8 is sure to bring some changes to Czech politics and foreign policy.
While the Czech Republic has a system which sees the president as more of a figurehead, the fact that this was the first direct presidential election in the country's history will endow President Zeman with a certain legitimacy that he can use to his benefit, particularly in negotiations with the government.
During the presidency of his predecessor Vaclav Klaus, many Czechs lost respect for the office particularly due to Klaus' strident and controversial views, many of which were not representative of the majority of Czechs.
The process of switching to direct presidential elections resulted in candidates having to appeal directly to the people. A lot of Zeman's support came from the fact that he was seen to be a man of the people, while his opponent Karel Schwarzenberg, who comes from a noble family, was seen as a relic of Austro-Hungarian aristocracy.
In the final stages of the election, Klaus threw his support behind Zeman. Some experts said this gave his candidacy the illusion of some euroscepticism and may even have caused some eurosceptics to start supporting him.
But it is unlikely Klaus' eurosceptic legacy will be continued. The newly-elected president may not be as pro-EU as his opponent Schwarzenberg, but it was his government that led much of the accession to the European Union.
Zeman has often expressed pro-European opinions. It will be a relief for the European Union, weathering a crisis of doubt as it is, to have less opposition and criticism coming from one less country, albeit a small one.
The outgoing Czech president has weathered a crisis of confidence of his own, after the Czech senate voted to accuse him of high treason. His case will be sent to the constitutional court for allegedly abusing presidential amnesty when he released approximately 7,000 prisoners at the beginning of the year.
The case will not have many practical implications, as the former president has already left office, but it could affect Zeman's behavior in office. A guilty verdict will sharply rebuke Klaus, and could encourage the current and future presidents to think twice before pushing the boundaries of their power.
Foreign relations is one of the areas in which the new president can leave his mark. That being said, very little is likely to change, apart from a shift back towards the European Union. It is unlikely that Zeman will change anything in the relationship between the Czech Republic and the United States, as both sides of Czech politics tend to be relatively pro-American.
While Zeman won the second round of elections quite convincingly, with a margin of 54.8 percent to 45.2 percent, it does not give him a large mandate for change. The Czech Republic remains a bitterly divided country and Zeman's victory portends a slight leftward tilt, not a landslide.
There will probably be a touch of populism, as Zeman seeks to maintain his "of the people, for the people" image, but the voice from the Prague Castle is expected to lack the stridency and anger that has marked Klaus' presidency, and hopefully he can restore the public's faith in the country's leadership.