Social Democrat MPs have been reacting to former Prime Minister Milos Zeman's recent comments in the media that have been highly critical of the current party leadership. Giving interviews from his country cottage, Mr Zeman, who retired from politics last year, has lashed out at Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla and Deputy-Chairman Stanislav Gross, blaming them for disunity within the party. This, he says, is why deputies voted tfor he opposition's candidate Vaclav Klaus instead of the ruling coalition's Jan Sokol in Friday's presidential elections. Social Democrat MPs have been calling on Mr Zeman to either share his opinion with the parties involved directly or stay out of party politics.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda left for the United States on Wednesday for a three-day official visit. Mr Svoboda is expected to meet his US counterpart Colin Powell and other senior US politicians. Besides holding talks on bilateral and international relations, Mr Svoboda hopes to visit an ice-hockey game with Czech NHL star Jaromir Jagr and officially open a park with a statue of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia. Next week, Mr Svoboda is expected to visit Vietnam, the Philippines, and New Zealand.
The Czech foreign ministry has advised all Czech nationals who may still be on the territory of Iraq, Kuwait or Jordan to leave without delay. In view of security risks from impending war it has advised Czechs not to plan trips to the region until further notice. The ministry has likewise published a list of ten other countries which are considered high risk. Embassy staff, including non essential personnel have been evacuated from the region.
Czech President-elect Vaclav Klaus began his first week in office on Monday with the building of a presidential staff, which should be in place before his formal inauguration ceremony on Friday. Mr Klaus has also expressed hope to strengthen the presidential powers by overhauling the Central Bank's governing board, appointing new court judges and getting involved in the preparations for the country's referendum on EU enlargement in June.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has announced that the Czech ruling coalition would seek a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament. The decision was made after Mr Spidla's three-party centre-left coalition failed to give its candidate enough support during Friday's presidential elections. Rebel coalition members switched sides to join opposition MPs in electing Vaclav Klaus in the final round of balloting. Speaking to journalists on Monday, Mr Spidla said it was not clear when the vote of confidence would be held. While newly elected President Vaclav Klaus has welcomed the decision, experts say the move is too risky as the coalition only has a one-vote majority in the 200-seat lower house.
Results of a recent study made by the Centre for Public Opinion Research less than four months before the country's referendum on EU membership is scheduled to take place, suggest that 56 percent of Czechs feel they have not been given enough information on what EU membership would entail. Despite these statistics, the number of Czechs in support of the country's accession to the EU has increased by 14 percent since October to reach 69 percent.
Mr Klaus himself has denied that he was only elected thanks to the support of the Communist Party. He said on a television interview programme that he was 100 percent certain he had received votes from all the parties in the lower house of parliament. He also denied doing deals with the Communists in exchange for their support. Meanwhile, the deputy leader of the Communist Party, Miloslav Ransdorf, has said he is considering resigning from the party if reports that most Communist MPs voted for Mr Klaus are confirmed.
There has been a mostly negative to the result in the European press. Britain's Guardian newspaper said Mr Klaus's victory had cast doubt on the Czech Republic's membership of the European Union. Meanwhile the leading French dailies Le Figaro and Liberation both described him as a "leading Euro-sceptic." Spain's El Pais newspaper said Mr Klaus represented the antithesis of Mr Havel's humanistic ideals. Austria's Die Presse said Mr Klaus would be a pragmatic partner who would, however, refuse to compromise on issues such as the dispute over the post-war expulsion of the Sudeten Germans.
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