Polls in the Czech Republic opened on two o'clock Friday for the second week in a row for the 2nd round of Senate elections; in the run-off Czechs will be decide who gets elected to one third of the country's Upper House. The election will determine whether parties that are in the opposition in the Chamber of Deputies, the Civic Democrats and the Communists, can gain a majority in the Senate. Polls will close on Saturday at two in the afternoon.
The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, was one of many state leaders
and officials who attended the funeral of President Yasser Arafat on
Friday morning in Cairo. Earlier, Mr Svoboda said that Mr Arafat had
played a major role in the history of Palestine, stressing the Palestinian
leader would be greatly missed by his people. Mr Svoboda added that the
Nobel Peace Prize winner could be regarded as a controversial figure
because of his role in the troubling Middle East conflict.
In the 1970s and 1980s communist Czechoslovakia provided political and financial support to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, as well as arms and military training. Mr Arafat visited former Czechoslovakia on several occasions.
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has recommended the government sell the 51.1 majority stake it holds in the country's dominant fixed-line operator Cesky Telecom on the capital markets, rather than holding a new tender to choose a single buyer. The government is to decide the issue next Tuesday. Mr Sobotka outlined his stance in a document sent to the cabinet describing the political and economic transparency - as well as efficiency - of selling on the capitals markets, an option which does not need approval by the European Commission. Opponents of the plan, however, say it is far from certain investors will be interested in buying up such a large amount of Telecom stocks: excessive availability could consequently drive share prices down.
The vice president of the Czech Republic's football federation, Milan Brabec, stood down on Thursday after being heavily implicated in a match fixing scandal that has rocked Czech football. However, he denied any wrongdoing. Mr Brabec's position became untenable after police taped telephone conversations between him and Ivan Hornik, the former manager of the club Viktoria Zizkov. Mr Brabec, the then head of the federation's referee commission, and Mr Hornik were heard arranging referees for matches involving the club in a bid to fix results during the 2003/2004 first division season. The match fixing scandal in the Czech Republic erupted in May when police charged Jaroslav Hastik, the sporting director of FC Synot, with trying to bribe match officials. Around 30 referees were then charged with attempting to fix matches as a result of evidence from phone tapping by the police.
The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, is discussing an amendment to the election law which should enable Czechs living abroad to take part in elections to the lower house of parliament by sending absentee ballots. The amendment would also concern Czech citizens living in the Czech Republic. According to estimates, there are between 250.000 and 300.000 Czechs living outside the Czech Republic.
A poll carried out by the Stem agency suggests that most Czechs want the government to immediately start a fundamental reform of the health care and social areas. In the poll, about 60 percent of respondents voiced the view that the cabinet would finally have to resort to deep cuts in the health care and social areas. Although several health ministers have submitted their ideas of the reform, none of them has been accepted. The current Health Minister Milada Emmerova wants to present her draft reform at the beginning of next week.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has said the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has played a big role in the history of Palestine and that he will be greatly missed by the Palestinian people. Mr Svoboda added that the Nobel Peace Prize winner can be regarded as a controversial figure because he was connected with the complex issue of the Middle East conflict. The foreign minister will attend Mr Arafat's funeral in Cairo on Friday. In the 1970s and 1980s communist Czechoslovakia provided political and financial support to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, as well as arms and military training. Mr Arafat visited communist Czechoslovakia on ten occasions.
The Bulgarian government has approved a draft privatisation contract for the sale of three power distribution companies to the Czech power utility CEZ. The Czech power producer is supposed to pay over 280 million euros for a 67-percent stake in the distribution companies in the capital Sofia, the city of Pleven and in the Sofia region. The head of CEZ, Martin Roman, said the purchase was a milestone in the development of CEZ and the Czech energy industry. He said it was the first step to becoming a leader on the Central and Eastern European electricity market.
The government has approved a crisis plan for the eventuality of a global flu epidemic. Although no new virus strain has been detected, scientists are worried that a bird flu virus could mutate and spread on to humans. In case a new variety of the flu virus occurs, Czech doctors will distribute anti-viral drugs until a vaccine is developed for the mutated virus. Flu epidemics occur every year but every 30 to 40 years the virus changes to the extent that existing vaccines cannot prevent the illness. The last such epidemic was in 1968.
Prague university students who are - as they put it - disquieted by the current situation in society, mainly people's declining interest in public affairs, are going to stage a march on November 17 whose route will copy that of the student march 15 years ago, which triggered the anti-communist Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. The organisers expect up to 10,000 people to join the event. Representatives of the student leaders of 1989 are expected to address the opening rally. The current students will read a declaration of their own, which will be available for the public to sign. Former anti-communist dissidents, including Catholic priest Tomas Halik and folk singer Jaroslav Hutka, will address the rally after the march ends on Prague's Wenceslas square.
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