Meanwhile, the outgoing leader of the right-of-centre Freedom Union,
Petr Mares, said the party was prepared to go into opposition. But
Pavel Nemec, who many expect to be elected new Freedom Union chairman
on Sunday, said he was prepared to play a part in a coalition
government which would have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and
not have to rely on the support of the Communist Party.
The Communist Party would be prepared to support a minority government under certain conditions, said chairman Miroslav Grebenicek. He also said he welcomed Mr Spidla's resignation and said it was good that he was departing the political scene.
The biggest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, are in favour of the establishment of a caretaker government which would remain in place until the holding of early elections, said chairman Mirek Topolanek.
In an extremely dramatic day in Czech politics, Vladimir Spidla has
resigned as leader of the Social Democratic Party and as Czech prime
minister. Mr Spidla announced his decision just hours after he had
narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in him as leader of the Social
Though opponents of Mr Spidla had fallen six votes short of the three-fifths majority necessary to remove him, a simple majority of delegates at Saturday's meeting of the party's central committee had voted against him.
The low level of support for him in the party is believed to be the reason Mr Spidla decided to step down after two years as prime minister. The cabinet is expected to resign on Wednesday.
Vladimir Spidla's fate had been uncertain since the Social Democrats did badly in recent elections to the European Parliament, and he had rejected pressure from within the party to step down as leader while remaining in the position of prime minister.
First deputy chairman Stanislav Gross is the man most likely to succeed Vladimir Spidla as chairman of the Social Democratic Party. The 34-year-old interior minister has received the backing of the party's central committee to begin negotiations on the formation of a new government. He is believed to favour a two-party minority coalition with the Christian Democrats. Mr Gross has recently expressed his opposition to maintaining the coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union which Mr Spidla formed after the last general election in June 2002.
On the eve of the Czech Republic's quarter-final clash with Denmark at the European Football Championships in Portugal, assistant trainer Miroslav Beranek said the Czechs would be keen not to concede the first goal, as they did in their three group games. He said it was necessary for the Czech team to avoid individual blunders in Sunday's match. If the Czech Republic beat Denmark they will face Greece in the semi-finals on Thursday.
The leadership of two of the three parties in the governing coalition will
be decided this weekend, with most attention focused on the battle for the
top post in the Social Democrats. Party chief Vladimir Spidla faces a vote
of confidence on Saturday - if he is loses and is replaced by challenger
Stanislav Gross, Mr Spidla says he will also step down as prime minister
and bring down the government.
Meanwhile, the smallest party in the coalition, the Freedom Union, are choosing a new leader, after Petr Mares resigned in the wake of their disastrous showing in European Parliament elections. The man most likely to succeed Mr Mares is Local Development Minister Pavel Nemec. Mr Nemec is in favour of the Freedom Union remaining part of the government, though the issue is sure to be hotly debated at this weekend's party conference in Hradec Kralove.
Prague Airport saw a record number of 521 take-offs and landings on
Thursday, said a spokesperson. Last year the record number of flights
was also recorded in June, though the number was 20 percent lower than
that recorded on Thursday.
In related news, the Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air has opened a low-cost route between Budapest and Prague. It will fly between the two capitals four times a week.
The Czech football team are preparing for a quarter-final clash with Denmark at the European Championships in Portugal on Sunday evening. Czech striker Milan Baros said on Friday he hoped the footballers would not go the same way as the country's ice hockey team, who promised a lot but were beaten in the quarter-finals of this year's World Championships.
The Foreign Ministry and President Vaclav Klaus's office have reached an agreement under which the president's wife Livia can stand in for him on trips abroad, the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Friday. Mrs Klausova is due to attend the inauguration of President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines on Monday when Mr Klaus will be at a NATO summit in Istanbul.
Two new stations were opened on the C line of the Prague metro system on Friday. The new stations are at Kobylisy and Ladvi in the north of the capital. Prague's underground rail network recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of its opening; in 1974 the system consisted of just nine stations, and ran from Kacerov to Florenc.
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