Both the leader of the Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek and the head of the opposition Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek cast their votes shortly after polls opened on Friday. As well, both urged citizens to come out for the vote. Mr Paroubek voted togteher with his wife in the Prague suburb of Stodulky, while Mr Topolanek was accompanied by his family in Prague 6. Other notable figures who cast their ballot on Friday were former prime minister Milos Zeman, and President Vaclav Klaus.
Czechs customs officials working with specially-trained sniffer dogs may receive new training this autumn in the US, aimed at improving expertise using dogs to uncover hidden weapons and explosives in potential terrorist attacks. But, it is not yet clear whether the customs service will have the necessary funds. Currently, Czech customs relies on around 80 specialised dogs that focus largely on uncovering narcotics, but also banned foodstuffs, and uncovering smuggling of exotic animals.
A 78-year-old voter suffered a fatal heart attack at a polling station in a district of Prague on Friday. Despite a doctor being on hand it proved impossible to save the woman's life. Another man also suffered a heart attack at a polling station in the Moravian region of Sumperk and could not be saved although he was attended to immediately on site.
Polling stations have opened throughout the Czech Republic on the first day of a two-day national election. The election is widely expected to be a close contest between the ruling Social Democratic Party and the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats. Polling stations opened earlier at the Czech Republic's embassies and consulates, for example, in South and North America as well as Australia. Around 5,000 Czechs living abroad have registered at 108 Czech embassies and consulates around the world to take part in this year's elections to the lower house. In the Czech Republic polls will close at two pm on Saturday.
The president of the European Parliament Josep Borell has stated that it is the responsibility of all twenty-five EU member states to try and ratify the EU Constitution -on hold after France and the Netherlands rejected the document in referenda last year. Speaking during a visit to Finland Mr Borrel said that the parliament would push for the ratification of the document in countries that have not decided yet: among them Great Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic. In total, fifteen EU countries so far have ratified the document. The EU would like to see at least twenty back the constitution to pave the way for a special summit on the issue.
Leading up to the election some 1.4 million people saw a final televised debate between the leaders of the country's two strongest parties. The debate was aired by the Czech Republic's largest commercial broadcaster, TV Nova, on Thursday. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek of the Social Democrats and the right-of-centre Civic Democrats' Mirek Topolanek faced off on issues that included corruption, as well as pension, tax, and health reforms. Public interest in the debates increased over the final week as campaigns wrapped-up. The televised debates - featured on all three of the country's main broadcasters - introduced for the first time in the Czech Republic US-style presidential formats that focused to a greater degree on the leaders of the two strongest political parties.
The agency Interkoncerts has confirmed that the American singer Madonna will perform in Prague as part of her "Confessions" tour. She will play the Czech capital on September 6th. Tickets for the concert to take place at Prague's Sazka Arena will go on sale later this month. Prices will range from 3,000 to 5,000 crowns (127 to 208 dollars).
The supreme state attorney, Renata Vesecka, has begun an investigation
into whether the leaking of a secret police report was illegal. The
report, by the head of the organised crime unit Jan Kubice, accuses Prime
Minister Jiri Paroubek and other senior government officials of having
ties with the mafia. The confidential report appeared on the internet
shortly after Mr Kubice presented it to the Chamber of Deputies defence
and security committee on Monday. Police president Vladislav Husak said on
Thursday a four-member group of police specialists would start checking the
content of the confidential report.
Prime Minister Paroubek reacted angrily to the allegations, saying they were politically motivated and designed to damage his Social Democrats ahead of elections this weekend.
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