Czech Republic profile
President: Milos Zeman
Former prime minister Milos Zeman won the first direct Czech presidential election in January 2013, beating conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg by a margin of 55% to 45%.
Unlike his predecessor, the notoriously euro-sceptic Vaclav Klaus, Mr Zeman describes himself as a euro-federalist and is an advocate of closer European integration, though he believes that the Czech Republic should take its time over joining the euro.
Like Mr Klaus, Mr Zeman thrives on confrontation and is keen to exercise his presidential powers to the full, even if this means entering into conflict with the Czech government.
He also shares his predecessor's outspoken criticism of Islam, the recognition of Kosovo and theories of man-made global warming.
Mr Zeman effectively retired from politics in 2003, after failing to beat Mr Klaus in the election to succeed Vaclav Havel as president. Even his own Social Democratic party split over whether to back him.
Political analysts attribute his spectacular comeback to his harnessing of discontent among older and poorer voters with the government's handling of the economic downturn.
In his younger days, he was frequently dismissed from various posts because of his criticism of the Communist system's economic failings, and played a prominent part in the Civic Forum movement that helped oust the pro-Soviet government in 1989.
He rose to be Social Democratic prime minister in 1998-2002, but quit the party after his presidential election humiliation the following year. He now leads the small social-democratic Party of Civic Rights.
Prime Minister: Petr Necas
The head of the centre-right Civic Democrat party (ODS), Petr Necas, was asked by President Klaus to form a government after the May 2010 general election.
Prior to the election, the Czech Republic had been in political limbo for over a year, and Mr Necas inherited a difficult situation.
The caretaker government of Jan Fischer had been keeping things ticking over, but pressing problems such as the country's budget deficit - which swelled in 2009 when the global economic crisis hit the Czech Republic's export-dependent economy - remained to be dealt with.
Mr Necas formed a coalition with the right-wing TOP 09 party and a smaller centrist party. Between them, the three parties held a working majority in the Czech parliament.
The new government raised taxes and cut welfare spending in an effort to slash the budget deficit, but these measures did not help to pull the economy out of recession, and the coalition's popularity slipped.
In October 2010, the opposition Social Democrats gained control of the Senate in mid-term elections, putting them in a position to block legislation.
By the beginning of 2013, persistent infighting among the three coalition parties had reduced the government's support to 98 out of the 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and it was able to push through legislation only with the help of independent lawmakers.
A physicist by training, Petr Necas joined the ODS in 1991. He was first elected to parliament in 1996 and became minister of labour and social affairs in 2006.
He succeeded Mirek Topolanek as leader of the ODS in March 2010.