Prague Mayor Pavel Bem has been elected first deputy chairman of the
Civic Democratic Party, earning the vast majority of delegate votes. Mr
Bem takes over from Petr Necas, who came in second. Finance Minister
Vlastimil Tlusty was third.
Mr Bem's position prior to the vote was clearly strengthened by winning results in recent municipal elections, but even so he was not expected to win as early as the first round. The mayor has often been described as an eventual successor to Mirek Topolanek, as chairman or prime minister.
Other deputy chairpersons elected on Sunday were outgoing Interior Minister Ivan Langer, Central Bohemian governor Petr Bendl, and outgoing Minister for Regional Affairs Petr Gandalovic. Petr Necas was the last to take the final deputy chairperson's post, elected in the fourth round.
Czech police, investigating whether an attendee at a skinhead concert near the south Bohemian town of Tabor on Saturday broke the law by doing the Hitler salute, have come under criticism from the human rights group Tolerance as well as Czech Senator Jaromir Stetina. The non-government organisation and the senator have said that police should have intervened to prevent neo-Nazis from gathering. A Tolerance representative has said that while lyrics sung at the concert were not explicitly racist, they contained a racist subtext. Around 250 skinheads attended the site on Saturday, while some 150 police were on hand monitoring. Officers reportedly intervened only occasionally to check attendees' identities but say they did not witness any breaking of the law. They were not asked, for example, by the town to step in.
Delegates on the 2nd day of the Civic Democratic Party's weekend congress have ruled out the possibility of a 'grand' coalition or 'tolerance' pact between their party and the Social Democrats. The decision was taken early Sunday evening. Delegates did not address a proposal to ban cooperation between the Civic Democratic Party and the Social Democrats altogether.
Speaking on a Sunday TV news programme the leader of the Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek has said he thought the Czech Republic could have a new stable government by early December. Mr Paroubek said he favoured his party participating in a yet-to-be negotiated government led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, but said that he himself would not seek a cabinet post. By contrast, on Sunday Mr Topolanek told public broadcaster Czech TV that he would not predict when the new government would be formed, but said that he will keep President Vaclav Klaus informed on the latest developments. The newly re-elected Civic Democrat chairman has asked his party to give him a mandate ruling out exclusive cooperation with the Social Democrats and is looking for a solution involving one to four parties, in other words all the non-communist parties in parliament.
Prime Minister designate Mirek Topolanek has been re-elected chairman of the Civic Democratic Party for another two-year term. On Sunday he received almost 70 percent of votes from a total of 476 delegates. No one else challenged Mr Topolanek for the post. Afterwards, he thanked those who voted for him, saying he thought it was "the right decision". Two years ago he was elected with 90 percent of the vote. But, now it is apparent the party chairman has lost some support due to recent developments in government negotiations. This week Mr Topolanek dropped an earlier demand for early elections in 2007 in favour of a solution involving all four non-communist parties, but some delegates are upset he has decided to deal with close election rivals the Social Democrats. A number of those spoke out on Saturday.
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.
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.