Cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova has crushed a field of world-class racers in the ten-kilometre freestyle on the World Cup circuit in Gaellivare, Sweden. Neumannova, a gold medallist from this year's winter Olympics, finished far ahead of Estonia's Kristina Smigun, 24.19 seconds behind. The 10 km freestyle is said to be Neummanova's favourite race.
The right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party has seen the first day of its
two day party congress in the Czech capital. Prime Minister designate
Mirek Toplanek - the party's chairman - is looking for a strong mandate
from his party towards putting together an interim coalition government,
one that would include the four non-communist parties including the
Christian and Social Democrats and the Greens. Mr Topolanek stated on
Saturday that if the idea did not get strong backing, he would again
propose the current outgoing cabinet to the president, despite the fact it
failed in an earlier confidence vote.
Politicians including Mr Topolanek - now twice prime minister designate - have been trying to form a viable government since elections ended in stalemate in June.
The acting chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, Jan Kasal, has reiterated that his party will not support or tolerate any Social Democrat government leaning on support from the Communists. On Saturday, speaking as a guest at the Civic Democrats' party congress, Mr Kasal said the possibility of such a government was "a real danger". Politicians are now in a 2nd round of talks on forming a new government, but if the new cabinet does not find support in a confidence vote, it would likely mean that the Social Democrats, who came in second in the national election, would get the third and final chance. As it stands, the lower house is equally divided along right and left of the political spectrum, but the Social Democrats' Jiri Paroubek has in the past suggested that in the case of a confidence vote for "his" government he would find the necessary support.
In related news, the Civic Democratic Party's honorary chairman,
President Vaclav Klaus, has indirectly expressed support for a
compromise solution to the stalemate, suggesting on Saturday that it
was time the Civic Democratic Party - which dominated elections in 2006
- translated election results into a functioning government.
Party chairman Mirek Topolanek may still face additional criticism from some at the weekend: a number of Civic Democrat delegates are upset that he dropped an earlier demand for early elections in 2007 and opted for a compromise solution including the Social Democrats. It could impact the type of mandate on forming a new government the prime minister will get.
On the eve of the anniversary, a memorial plaque was unveiled on Prague's Albertov street where the peaceful demonstration, which kicked off the Velvet Revolution, started on November 17, 1989. The march which turned into a protest demanding democratic reforms was stopped by riot police and many people were injured. The plaque revealed on Thursday bears the words "Who if not us, when if not now" - one of the slogans of the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
The Prague organisation of the Civic Democratic Party has come out in favour of PM-designate Mirek Topolanek remaining party chairman ahead of the weekend party congress. Mr Topolanek has been supported by all regional chapters of the party. He wants to gain a clear mandate for negotiating about an interim government based on the agreement of four non-communist parties. The Prague organisation also proposed Prague Mayor Pavel Bem for first deputy chairman. He will be competing for the post with Petr Necas, the current deputy party chief.
The Czech Republic is marking the anniversaries of the events of November
17th, 1939 and 1989. Seventeen years ago, the Velvet Revolution started in
Prague which led to the collapse of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia
in 1989. The events were kicked off by a student march on November 17th,
1989 commemorating the student march of 1939 protesting against the Nazi
occupation and the death of medical student Jan Opletal who was killed by
President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek laid flowers on Friday at the memorial to the 1989 student demonstration on Prague's Narodni street. Outgoing Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra, who took part in the march 17 years ago, also laid flowers at the plaque and joined a crowd of people bringing flowers and lighting candles there to discuss about the events of 1989.
The Senate approved on Thursday an amendment to the law on the mitigation of some injustices caused to Holocaust victims. The amendment, passed last week by the lower house, abolishes the December 31 deadline for claims for the return of art objects confiscated from Jewish owners during WWII. The deadline for claims proved too short as not all potential claimants live in the Czech Republic and know about the possibility. The amendment has yet to be signed by the President.
A poll by the STEM agency suggests that 17 years after the fall of the communist regime, almost two thirds of Czechs believe that the current political system is better than the regime before November 1989. One fifth of the respondents said they believed the situation now was worse than before 1989 and 18 percent say they think both systems are the same.