A new poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency has suggested that if a national election were held today in the Czech Republic it would be narrowly won by the ruling Civic Democrats. The poll indicates they would edge their closest rivals by a few percentage points. According to the survey, the Civic Democrats would gain 33.5 percent of the vote, while the Social Democrats would gain an estimated 30.8 percent. The Communist Party would be third at 12.7 percent, followed by the Greens (9.2) and the Christian Democrats (8.8). The results remain virtually unchanged from a similar poll conducted by Factum Invenio in May, with only the Greens' position strengthening somewhat. Factum Invenio estimates that almost 60 percent of eligible voters would come to the polls.
Ruling coalition MPs blocked an extraordinary lower house session on Friday morning which was to discuss the case of deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek. As a result, the opposition Social Democrats have initiated a vote of no confidence on Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's government to be held next Wednesday. Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek has been under investigation for several months now over allegations he accepted a bribe of five hundred thousand crowns when he was mayor of the Moravian town of Vsetin. The Social Democrats first considered holding a vote of no confidence last week when the prosecutor in Mr Cunek's case was replaced. The opposition accused the government of trying to manipulate proceedings.
Czech star midfielder Pavel Nedved, who plays for Italian football club Juventus, has not yet said whether he is planning on giving up professional football, after he helped his side's being promoted back to the top flight. Nedved has said he will make a public announcement about his future on June 30th. He has made clear that even if he retires from the pitch he and his family will continue living in Italy, where Nedved has played since 1996. He enjoyed arguably his best season with Juventus in 2003 when he won the Best European Player of the Year award.
Dutch brewer Heineken has announced that it has acquired the Czech Krusovice brewery for an undisclosed sum, giving Heineken the number three position in the Czech market. The transaction will be funded from existing cash resources, Heineken said on Thursday. The Dutch brewer already owns the Starobrno brewery in the Czech Republic which makes the Starobrno, Hostan and Zlaty Bazant brands. Annual Czech beer consumption is estimated at 16 million hectoliters. In 2006, Czech per capita consumption was 159 litres per year, the highest in the world, Heineken said.
Jiri Paroubek, the leader of the country's largest opposition party the Social Democrats, has expressed the conviction that the current ruling coalition will fall within the next three months. On Friday he told the CTK news agency that the country could see early elections in roughly one year's time. The Social Democrats have called a no confidence vote for next week which the government is expected to survive. The opposition can count on only 98 out of 200 votes. The ruling coalition has itself staked its future on the success of its proposed fiscal reforms.
The Czech Republic were beaten by Serbia at football's European Under 21 Championships in the Netherlands on Thursday. The only goal of the game came in the 93rd minute. Following an earlier draw with England, the result leaves the Czechs needing to beat Italy in their last group game on Sunday to keep their hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has stressed that the integration of the West Balkans within the European Union is a process that needs to continue; he made the statement after meeting EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini. The prime minister said that he expected final accession talks with the EU and Croatia would take place during the Czech EU presidency in 2009. Croatia first began accession talks with the EU in October 2005. Earlier this week, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg met with his Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, also expressing support for Croatia's membership in the European Union.
In directly related news, Jiri Cunek came under renewed criticism on Friday after he gave a speech in the lower house addressing details of his case. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said afterwards the move was "very unfortunate". In the speech Mr Cunek discussed his personal dispute with a key witness in the case, which opposition Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek called an attack not only on her person but on the independence of the court. He was not alone in his criticism: the head of the Green Party's deputies' group, Katerina Jacques, said on Friday that Mr Cunek should resign. But she added that the Greens - who are members of the coalition - would support the government in next week's no confidence vote.
The Supervision Department of the Interior Ministry is investigating the
circumstances of a police shooting that resulted in the death of a
30-year-old taxi driver last Sunday. The department will look into whether
or not the officer in the shooting committed a criminal offence, namely
grievous bodily harm resulting in death. In the incident, the civilian
reportedly attacked two metropolitan officers, disarming them and taking
one of their guns. The man is then said to have threatened the officers
and tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to pull the trigger (which was
locked on "safety") at state police arriving at the scene. When
he refused to drop the weapon he was shot and killed.
The original officers first moved in against the civilian after he reportedly assaulted a woman on the street.
The EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini, has said the Czech Republic is well prepared for joining the Schengen border-free zone. Speaking to journalists after meeting Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer and Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil in Prague on Thursday, Mr Frattini said preparations went according to plan. Checks at border crossings will be abolished at the end of this year, but they will last until March 2008 at international airports around the Czech Republic.
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