President Vaclav Havel has appointed Vladimir Spidla prime minister of the Czech Republic. On Friday Mr Spidla became the country's fifth prime minister since the fall of communism in 1989. Mr Spidla's Social Democratic Party came first in elections to the lower house in mid-June, and he has formed a coalition with the centrist Christian Democrats and the right-wing Freedom Union.
The Scottish film star Sean Connery has had to pull out of the closing ceremony of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival due to illness. Festival organisers said that the 71-year-old actor, who is filming in the Czech Republic, was suffering from a viral infection. Mr Connery , famous for his performances in the early James Bond films, was due to receive an award for his long-term contribution to world cinema at Karlovy Vary, and organisers are now trying to find a way to get the award to him. The film festival comes to a close on Saturday night.
Commenting on the election of a new chairman of the lower house on Thursday, Mr Havel said that if the vote was a test, the new government had passed it. Lubomir Zaoralek of the Social Democrats became chairman after a second vote, seeing off a challenge from current chair Civic Democrat Vaclav Klaus, who stood against Mr Zaoralek to test the cohesion of the new government, which has a majority of one.
And in related news the new parliament also passed a proposal Thursday allowing for six new parliament deputy chairmen. Six names were put forward by the parties Thursday afternoon: two representatives for the Social Democrats, two for the Civic Democrats and one each for the Freedom Union-DEU and the Communist Party. However, only two of the candidates prevailed: in secret ballots Christian Democrat Jan Kasal got 115 votes while Social Democrat candidate Jitka Kupcova got 142. The other candidates did not get the mandatory 101 votes with Freedom Union's Hana Marvanova coming up short with 95, while the Communist's Vojtech Filip got the least support, with just 48 votes. Proceedings have been postponed till later Thursday evening, when the lower house should vote again to try and fill the four remaining positions in a second round. There is speculation, however, that the proceedings could be postponed as late as next Tuesday, which would postpone the entire process of appointing the new government.
Social Democrat candidate Lubomir Zaoralek has been elected as chairman of the Czech lower house in a second round of parliament voting: the Elections Committee confirmed the result shortly after a secret ballot Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day, in a first round of voting, Mr Zaoralek failed to clinch the position by receiving just 99 out of the minimum 101 ballots required; his opponent Vaclav Klaus of the Civic Democrats received 76. In the second round Mr Klaus lost two votes to Mr Zaoralek, which were enough for the Social Democrat to secure the chairmanship. Mr Zaoralek's election to the head of parliament was the first test of solidarity for members of the proposed coalition government between the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Freedom-Union-DEU. The new Czech cabinet is to be officially appointed on Monday.
Members of the Austrian parliament discussed on Wednesday what they termed "two obstacles" to Czech membership in the European Union, meaning the controversial Temelin nuclear power station and the post-war Benes Decrees which sanctioned the dispossession and expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia in 1945. The Austrian parliament also issued a statement calling for further talks on the possible closing of the Temelin power station situated close to the Czech-Austrian border. Earlier this year more than 900 thousand Austrians signed a petition in favour of blocking the Czech Republic's accession to the EU unless Temelin is shut down.
The outgoing Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, is likely to become the Social Democrats' candidate for the office of Czech President, the party's deputy leader Zdenek Skromach told journalists on Wednesday. So far the Czech ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, has been mentioned as the party's most likely presidential candidate. By the end of the year, the Social Democrats are to agree on one candidate. Presidential elections are expected to take place early next year when Vaclav Havel's second and final term in office ends.
The European commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, welcomed the
formation of the new Czech government. Mr Verheugen said he was convinced
that the new government would continue with pro-European policies. The Czech
Republic plans to complete EU accession talks this year and could be
admitted within the next enlargement wave in 2004.
Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla, who is expected to be appointed prime minister by President Vaclav Havel on Monday, said he was confident the government would achieve its main goal - that is to lead Czechs into the European Union.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Vaclav Klaus is going to seek re-election as chairman of the Lower House of Parliament. Mr Klaus will compete with Social Democrat candidate Lubomir Zaoralek who is expected to win in the Thursday election as the ruling coalition has a 101-vote majority in the 200-seat chamber.
The three parties involved in talks to put together a new Czech government are expected to sign a final agreement, defining relations between the three partners. The final distribution of ministerial posts is also to be decided, as are the names of individual ministers. Although the two smaller parties the centrist Christian Democrats and the liberal Freedom Union are expected to challenge the Social Democrats on a number of unresolved issues, they say that these are not differences which could endanger the proposed agreement. The agreement in question will commit the three parties to support the governing coalition through its four year term in office. One of the points of contention is whether the coalition agreement should be signed just by the party leaders or by all 101 members of Parliament representing the parties in the coalition.
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