Two rounds of voting fail in the Czech presidential election failed to
produce a new head of state on Friday evening. Neither the incumbent,
Václav Klaus, nor his challenger Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar
were able to secure majorities in both houses of Parliament in Friday’s
joint-session. In the first round, Mr Klaus received a majority in the
Senate with 47 senators voting for him, while his challenger won a majority
in the Chamber of Deputies. A second round followed shortly afterwards,
also proving inconclusive. Both candidates, however, have made it to the
third a final round of the election, now set for Saturday.
Lawmakers from both houses of Parliament will reconvene their joint-session at Prague Castle at 10 am to try and elect the new president. Unlike the first two rounds in which a majority in both houses is needed to win, the third pools votes from both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.
Czech Railways is to seek billions of crowns in funding from public finances to rebuild its aging carriage stock. The news was revealed by the head of Czech Railways Petr Žaluda on Friday, suggesting that an estimated 17 billion crowns (the equivalent of almost 1 billion US dollars) annually was needed. Transport Minister Aleš Řebíček has indicated that there may be opportunity to meet the request. Currently Czech Railways has 1,000 locomotives and 4,000 carriage cars which average 20 years in service. The Transport Minister has made clear that the need to invest in new vehicles to replace aging cars is a priority.
For most of Friday it appeared it wouldn’t come down to a vote at all:
the 281 MPs and senators present failed for hours to agree on an actual
voting method, as voting can be either public or secret. The deadlock was
finally broken shortly after 8 pm on Friday evening. Civic Democrat
legislators first failed to pass a motion proposing the presidential ballot
be secret, guaranteeing the public vote.
To recap: lawmakers in the election are choosing between 66-year-old Václav Klaus, who has almost twenty years experience in Czech politics and is seeking a second five-year term. His challenger Jan Švejnar is a US-based economist and relative newcomer to the Czech political scene, although he was an advisor to former president Václav Havel in the 1990s. Reasons for the deadlock on the voting method on Friday may vary, but it was widely considered that a secret ballot would favour incumbent Václav Klaus, while an open ballot might provide his opponent Jan Švejnar with an advantage.
In National Hockey League action on Thursday Václav Prospal scored the
overtime winner, lifting Tampa Bay 2:1 over the Nashville Predators. He
scored in the first minute of overtime; the goal is Prospal’s 23rd this
season. The České Budějovice native was also named the game‘s first
In other action, the Montreal Canadiens’ Tomáš Plekanec notched up a goal and an assist in a 4:2 loss to Toronto. Plekanec is one point ahead of Prospal as the most productive Czech player in the NHL. Robert Lang and Martin Havlát helped the Chicago Black Hawks defeat the Calgary Flames 3:1. Lang scored twice in the game, while Havlát racked up one assist.
A Czech court has acquitted former Czech police officer Tomáš Čermák on the charge of having attacked Kateřina Jacques, a Green Party official who is now a lower house deputy. Mr Čermák was accused of having beaten up Ms Jacques up when she protested against neo-Nazis demonstrating in Prague in May 2006. After the incident, which was partly caught on camera, Mr Čermák was sacked from the police and accused of abuse of power and inflicting bodily harm. The defence said that during the demonstration the defendant had repeatedly asked Jacques not to enter a zone where she would come into direct contact with attendees of the neo-Nazi rally. The defense had also argued that Jacques aimed to gain publicity ahead of a general election in June 2006.
The police have revealed that they apprehended a suspect - a former member of the criminal police – wanted for involvement in the theft of more than 500,000 crowns (the equivalent of around 28 thousand US dollars) in 2007. The suspect and two others have been taken into custody. The three allegedly robbed a Ukrainian national of the money.
The head of the Constitutional Court, Pavel Rychetský said earlier on Friday that – if petitioned by lawmakers - the court would rule quickly on the matter of public and private voting in the presidential election. It is conceivable, he suggested, that the Senate vote could be secret, while the Chamber of Deputies vote would remain public, although the results of both would be revealed only after both proceedings had ended. The Czech Constitution allows for both options of voting. Some observers have already stated that if lawmakers' fail to agree on procedure in Friday’s election, it could lead to a “constitutional crisis”.
The Czech National Bank raised the base interest rate on Thursday by a
quarter of a percentage point to 3.75 percent, the highest value since
April 2002. The move was caused by inflation which reached 6.5 percent in
January; the Bank expects it will keep on rising. Economists say however
that the January rise in inflation was a single event and that the
inflation should drop to three to four percent during the year. The
rise in inflation has been caused by the increase in the prices of food,
oil and other energies as well as rents. Despite the rise, the Czech
interest rate is currently the lowest in the European Union.
In related news, the Czech National Bank lowered its estimate of Czech economy growth in 2008 to 4.1 percent. The Bank’s estimate is more pessimistic than that by the Czech Finance Ministry which had previously estimated that the Czech economy will only grow by 4.7 percent.
The Czech police are considering changing the colour scheme of their vehicles. Instead of the current white with a green stripe, police cars could be painted in silver metallic with blue lining. The police say the change could happen in autumn this year as part of a rebranding campaign; cars painted in silver metallic would be also easier to spot on the road and used police car with metallic finish would sell better.
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