PRAGUE, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Vaclav Klaus, the controversial former President of the Czech Republic who has just handed over presidency to his successor Milos Zeman, has suffered probably the greatest setback of his career and the strongest challenge to his historical legacy.
Just a few days before Klaus' presidential tenuare expired at midnight Thursday, the Czech Senate voted on March 4 to impeach Klaus of "high treason" and sent the case to the Constitutional Court.
The issue under criticism is the amnesty Klaus authorised at the beginning of January, which freed about 7,000 prisoners and cancelled some long-running trials, including some of the country's most high-profile cases involving corruption, fraud and embezzlement dating back to the late 1990's and early 2000's.
The core argument for its unconstitutionality is that Klaus did not discuss the amnesty with the government, though he did obtain the prime minister's signature, without which it would have been invalid.
The case itself will have little consequence to Klaus' life as such; even with a guilty verdict there is no risk of prison time, he would simply lose his presidential pension and be banned from running for public office, which at 71 years of age may not have been on the cards anyway.
It is instead an unexpected rebuke of presidential overreach. While Klaus was undoubtedly aware of his divisive reputation, it is unlikely he foresaw the bitter public reaction to the amnesty, nor the legal consequences thereof.
The Czech Republic is a deeply divided country, and the country's two houses of parliament reflect this.
While the government is controlled by the right, the side which Klaus himself hails from, the Senate is controlled by the left wing, and Klaus' successor, recently-inaugurated Zeman, is a populist leftist.
The Senate vote was along party lines, with the left-wing parties supporting impeachment and the right-wing parties opposing it.
The main repercussion of the court action will come not for Klaus, but for President Zeman.
If Klaus is found guilty, it will be an unmistakable message to Zeman that he must not go beyond the boundaries of what powers the constitution bestows on the president.
A verdict of not guilty, on the other hand, may indicate to Zeman that he too is unrestrained by the constitution. That being said, it would be a brave man who risked the public's wrath in the event of the trial going Klaus' way.
A public petition against the amnesty broke Czech records, and one opinion poll put disapproval of the amnesty at 82.5 percent. That is an indication that the public is at the end of its rope and unwilling to tolerate what they view as the country's endemic corruption and misbehavior of politicians.