Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has been elected chairman of the Social
Democratic Party at a special congress held over the weekend. 479 of
521 party members, or ninety-two percent of the party delegates voted
for Paroubek to replace Bohuslav Sobotka, who was the Social Democratic
Party's provisional chairman after the resignation of former Prime
Minister Stanislav Gross last year. Jiri Paroubek admitted that his
election is in large part a public declaration of the Social Democratic
Party's unity before the upcoming elections. Prime Minister Jiri
Paroubek declared that his immediate goal now is to win the June
elections and prevent a possible coalition of Civic Democrats,
Christian Democrats and the Green Party.
Social Democratic Party delegates also voted for Zdenek Skromach to be the new vice-chairman of the party. Eighty-nine percent of delegates voted for Skromach, who ran with the support of Prime Minister Paroubek and was the only candidate for the position of vice-chairman.
Hasan Mubarak Sami, a Qatar national, has won the 12th annual Prague Marathon. Sami beat the expected favourites from Kenya with a time of 2:11:11. Today's victory was Sami's third of his marathon career. In the women's race, Alina Ivanovova of Russia came first with a time of 2:29:20; Ivanovova also won the women's race of the Prague Marathon in 2000.
The International Air Transport Association, IATA, has declared the Czech national carrier, CSA, the best European provider of on-board service to both its economy-class and first-class passengers. The results come from a survey in which 12 000 passengers travelling with eleven of Europe's most popular carriers placed Czech Airlines first, followed by the Hungarian carrier Malev, Finn Air, Austrian Airlines, and the Polish carrier, Lot. The President of CSA, Radomir Lasak, said that the survey confirmed that CSA's strongpoint rests with the high degree of professional on-board service, and the quality of refreshments served in-flight. Czech Airlines currently operates 50 planes and in 2005 the airline transported a record 5.2 million passengers.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has suggested that the leader of the Green
Party, Martin Bursik, has some explaining to do regarding his personal
property and the financing of the Green Party's election campaign, and
that as a result, the Social Democrats would find it difficult to
negotiate with Bursik following the elections. However, Paroubek stated
that his party will not disregard cooperation with other Green Party
members. Martin Bursik has reacted by saying that his finances are in
order, and that if Paroubek has some personal problem with him, it
should be clear that Green Party members chose him as a leader, and
possible coalition negotiations can not take place with other figures
inside the Green Party. Martin Bursik is facing accusations that he
purchased property in Prague for ten times less than its estimated
market value, a charge Bursik denies. The Green Party is expected to
play a key role if the upcoming elections result in the need to form a
Meanwhile, some members of the Green Party have publicized a letter criticizing internal communications within their party. These critics have also asked that all financial support for the Greens be clarified and publicized. The seventeen signatories insist that their letter does not mean that the Green Party suffers from internal divisions, and they have publicly stated their support for Martin Bursik. Among the critics are the Greens' Pardubice candidate Pavel Krivak, and the journalist Petr Uhl.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has said that the Czech Republic wants to join the Schengen Zone in October 2007. Yet, according to Svoboda this time-line will depend much on the preparations of neighbouring countries because the Czech Republic does not face the problem of securing a new Schengen border, as does Poland in relation to Belarus and the Slovak Republic in relation to Ukraine. The Czech Republic will have to adapt the Prague-Ruzyne international airport, which will require implementing a new computer system—the SIS II information system—which allows for the quick exchange of information between border crossings. Czech passports will also need to contain biometric data. Membership in the Schengen zone allows for the free movement of people; currently thirteen EU countries belong to the Schengen agreement, which excludes the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Former Prime Minister and one-time leader of the Social Democrats, Milos
Zeman, has warned against the possibility of creating a grand coalition
following the June elections. Speaking at the Social Democratic congress
over the weekend, Zeman said that the Social Democrats should avoid a
so-called opposition agreement with the right-of-centre Civic Democrats,
and should instead opt for a minority Social Democratic government. Former
Prime Minister Zeman speaks with a degree of experience, because following
the 1998 elections he formed a government based on an opposition agreement
made with the Civic Democratic Party.
Milos Zeman has also declared his support for the current Social Democratic Party leader, Jiri Paroubek, stating that he has the life experience and maturity that have sometimes been lacking in the past.
Defence Minister Karel Kuenhl has praised work by members of the military recently back from missions in Afghanistan. On Friday the minister awarded military decorations to members of units in Prostejov and Bechyne: members of a sapper unit serving at the international airport in Kabul, and a reconnaissance and information-gathering unit serving in the north-east of the country monitoring local developments. Minister Kuenhl said that the soldiers had contributed to increased stability in Afghanistan, and praised them for operating successfully under difficult and often dangerous conditions. The Czechs served for roughly six months under the international ISAF mission.
Speaking after his election as party chairman, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek wants to attract young people to join the ranks of the Social Democratic Party and raise the party's membership count to 40 000. Currently, Social Democratic Party members number about 17 000, with nearly 42 percent of these over the age of 50.
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