Preceding the vote, the Social Democrats accused the ruling Civic Democrats of pressuring MPs and Senators to support incumbent Václav Klaus. Before the third round of the presidential ballot, Christian Democratic senators Karel Barták and Josef Kalbáč were hospitalized due to health problems. Social Democratic MP Evžen Snítilý was taken to hospital from Prague Castle on Saturday morning due to exhaustion; several Social Democratic lawmakers told Czech TV that they had seen Interior Minister Ivan Langer and another MP from the Civic Democrats pressuring Mr Snítilý to support Václav Klaus in the decisive round. The condition of all three ailing lawmakers is reported to be stable.
The Czech Republic is leading 3:0 over Belgium in the first round of the
Davis Cup in tennis and is advancing to the quarterfinals.
In the first two matches in Ostrava on Friday, both Tomáš Berdych and Radek Štěpánek beat Kristof Vliegen and Steve Darcis, respectively, in three sets. The two Czechs then on Saturday faced the Belgian players Rochus and Vliegen in the double, and won after a five-set battle 6:7, 7:6, 7:5, 5:7 and 6:4, securing the Czech triumph. The 3:0 score means the Czech team advances to the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup irrespective of the results of the two remaining games between the Czech Republic and Belgium.
The police have shelved the case of Josef Vondruška, a communist MP who worked as a prison guard in the 1970s and 1980s. Several former political prisoners had accused Mr Vondruška of abuse of power while working in a prison in Minkovice, North Bohemia. Last year, the Chamber of Deputies stripped Mr Vondruška of his immunity so that he could face criminal charges. While the communist MP rejects all accusations, Vladimír Hučín, who claims he was repeatedly beaten by Mr Vondruška, said he would appeal the decision of the police.
The next presidential election will take place on Friday, February 15. The date was agreed on by the leaders of the five political parties represented in Parliament and the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, Miloslav Vlček, who presides over joint sessions of the lower house and the Senate. Both the incumbent Václav Klaus, who remains a strong favourite, and challenger Jan Švejnar, who received 113 votes in the third vote on Saturday, have said they will stay in the running. They will now try to win over the communist electors, who abstained in Saturday’s vote.
The Health Ministry has issued a warning about sets of children’s tableware from China and Spain. Laboratory tests have shown that the melanin tableware from China and a set of dishes made in Spain contain double the amount of formaldehyde permitted by Czech norms. The Health Ministry says the tableware is a health hazard and should not be used for serving food as it could cause headaches, skin allergies and other health problems.
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 defence had also argued that Jacques aimed to gain publicity ahead of a general election in June 2006.
Members of both chambers of Parliament have failed to elect a new Czech president. Voting in the third round of the election took place on Saturday, with the incumbent Václav Klaus receiving 139 votes – falling just one vote short of re-election. While Mr Klaus was backed in all three rounds by the ruling Civic Democrats as well as some Christian Democratic and independent lawmakers, his challenger Jan Švejnar was supported by the Greens and the opposition Social Democrats. The Communists decided not to back either of the two candidates in the final round, making it impossible for either to attain a majority. Lawmakers in the election were choosing between 66-year-old Václav Klaus, with almost twenty years experience in Czech politics, and Jan Švejnar – a US-based economist and relative newcomer to the Czech political scene.
Martin Fenin, a forward at Eintracht Frankfurt, scored in his second game in the German football Bundesliga after transferring from the Czech club Teplice earlier this year. After getting a hat-trick last weekend in his first appearance in the German top division, Fenin hit the net again on Friday scoring the winning goal in a game against Bielefeld.
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.
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