Despite his appeal pressure on lawmakers has not let-up in the course of the day. Deputy Evžen Snítilý of the opposition Social Democrats was expelled from the party’s deputy group in the lower house on Friday morning after announcing his intention to vote for Václav Klaus. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek called on Mr. Snítilý to give up his mandate in the lower chamber.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has indicated that Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek, who resigned from his government posts late last year because of corruption allegations is welcome to return to the cabinet. The prime minister made this statement just two hours before the start of Friday’s presidential elections at Prague Castle, fuelling speculation that it was a concession made in return for Christian Democrat votes for Václav Klaus. The Green Party, the third party in government, is vehemently opposed to Mr. Čunek’s return. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said he would leave the Cabinet if Mr. Čunek was invited back.
In his address to the assembled lawmakers earlier today President Klaus condemned the public wrangling and arm-twisting that has accompanied the election. He said it had been a week of threats, lies and dirty deals that the public would find it hard to forget. In reaction to the events of the past week the incumbent called for a public vote and appealed to law-makers to try and make this election dignified.
The results of a poll conducted by the CVVM agency indicate that the majority of Czechs favor direct presidential elections. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they would prefer the president to be elected by the people, 18 percent said the decision-making should remain in the hands of lawmakers.
It has been a week of rising political tensions in which eight deputies and senators who voted for incumbent president Václav Klaus in last week’s inconclusive elections are said to have received threats in the mail. A number of them were sent bullets and vulgar SMS messages. The incidents have caused a storm of controversy among lawmakers with members of the ruling and opposition parties accusing each other of dirty deals and provocation.
President Václav Klaus has won a second term in office in Friday’s presidential elections. In the crucial third round Mr. Klaus, fielded by the ruling Civic Democrats, won 141 votes from the deputies and senators present. Challenger Jan Švejnar, a liberal economist backed mainly by the Social Democrats and the Greens received 111 votes. The president was re-elected in a public vote.
The ruling Civic Democrats have threatened to lodge a criminal complaint against an independent senator who claims the party attempted to bribe him in last week’s inconclusive presidential election. Independent senator Josef Novotný said he had been approached by a senator from the Civic Democratic Party and offered two million crowns if he backed the party’s nominee Václav Klaus.The Civic Democrats have denied the allegation and said that unless senator Novotný offers proof of his claim or makes public the name of the senator who allegedly tried to bribe him they would press charges.
Presidential candidate Jan Švejnar has rejected rumors that he is considering withdrawing from the race, on the reasoning that with the appearance of a third candidate his chances of beating incumbent Václav Klaus are significantly lower. Mr. Švejnar’s spokeswoman Klára Pospíšilová said the challenger had no intention of backing out ahead of Friday’s election and hinted that whoever was spreading the rumor intended to damage Mr. Švejnar ahead of the vote. The Czech-American economist’s chances now hinge on the Communist Party, which has attached a number of conditions to its support of Mr. Švejnar, nominating its own candidate in the event of these conditions not being met. Observers say that the nomination of a third candidate – Jana Bobošiková – will boost President Klaus’ chances in the elections since the anti-Klaus vote will be split between two candidates.
The chairman of the lower house Miloslav Vlček has called a meeting of party leaders ahead of Friday’s presidential elections. The aim of these last minute consultations is to try and reach agreement on the method of voting in what will be a second attempt to elect a new Czech president. A dispute over whether the vote should be public or by secret ballot blocked the election process for close to ten hours last week. The Civic Democrats and the Christian Democrats have said they will push for a traditional secret ballot, blaming last week’s public vote for the undignified scenes that accompanied the election process.
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