The right-of-centre Civic Democrats topped the polls in Czech voting to
the European Parliament. The party of former prime minister, Mirek
Topolánek, gained 31.4 percent of the votes, well ahead of the left-wing
Social Democrats who came second with 22.4 percent. The Communists took
third place with 14.2 percent of the vote and the Christian Democrats came
fourth with 7.6 percent. The results mean the Civic Democrats will hold
onto nine out of the country’s 22 seats. The Social Democrats improve on
their disastrous showing in 2004 with seven seats. The Communists have
fallen back to four and the Christian Democrats have held onto their two
seats. None of the smaller parties made it past the 5.0 percent threshold.
Turnout was 28.0 percent, around the same level as 2004. The final election
results are expected on Wednesday.
The European poll is seen as an important indicator of party strengths ahead of early general elections in October. Mr Topolánek described the result as a comeback after his party’s previous battering in regional and Senate elections. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said there would be a different turnout in the autumn elections since it would be fought on different issues.
The Czech Republic’s trade balance improved in April compared with a year earlier according to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office on Monday. April’s trade surplus came in at 12.0 billion crowns. That is more than double the 5.6 billion in April 2008. The surplus came against a background of the biggest fall in imports since the creation of the Czech Republic and the second biggest slump in exports. Compared with 2008, exports fell by 22.8 percent and imports by 26.0 percent.
The government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer, which won a confidence vote in the lower house on Sunday, on Monday approved a bill on the Czech army’s foreign missions in 2010. The proposal envisages maintaining 550 Czech soldiers in the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and 530 in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The bill is expected to raise controversy in the lower house where left-wing deputies would like to see the number of troops serving in foreign missions significantly reduced. The Defence Ministry has already had to effect significant cuts after the lower house rejected the first draft proposal on the army’s foreign missions last December. The chamber of deputies is expected to vote on the bill in June.
The head of the Green Party Martin Bursík said he would offer his resignation to party leaders at a meeting on Monday after the Greens’ dismal European Parliament poll showing. The Green Party received 2.1 percent of the votes in the elections and no seats. It was battling against two other parties claiming ‘green’ credentials. Mr Bursík said his party paid the price of internal splits but also blamed the low public interest in the European Parliament.
Czech unemployment stabilized at 7.9 percent in May, the same rate as in April according to figures released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on Monday. A year earlier the unemployment rate was 5.0 percent. Analysts had expected the number of jobless seeking work to creep up to 8.0 percent. The ministry said the slowdown in the recent surge in joblessness was partly due to the start of seasonal work.
The former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, has described his holiday at the private villa of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as a big mistake. Mr. Topolánek, whose Civic Democrats won the Czech elections to the EP, is fighting off an embarrassing scandal after the Spanish paper El Pais published a photo of him naked at Mr. Berlusconi’s private villa in Sardinia. After denying that any embarrassing photographs could exist of his visit last year, Mr. Topolánek admitted that he was the naked man in one of the photos, although he insists it had been modified and was not authentic. The Italian prime minister had gained an injunction to prevent up to 700 photographs of private parties at his Sardinian villa appearing in the Italian media. Mr. Topolánek who has been hounded by the Czech media for a statement, said it had been unwise to accept the invitation in the belief that he would have total privacy.
Shortly after their election victory, the centre-right Civic Democrats announced that they were forging ahead with plans for a new rightist faction in the European Parliament. Leader of the Civic Democrat EP ticket Jan Zahradil said the new faction would have over 60 members and be set up by the end of June, bringing together parties from Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic and other member states. Every faction in the 736-seat European Parliament has to be composed of at least 25 MEPs, representing at least seven of the 27 EU member countries.
Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, a former Czech communist prosecutor who is serving a six year jail sentence for helping to send democratic politician Milada Horáková to the gallows in a show trial in the Stalinist 10950s, has asked for her sentence to be suspended for health reasons. Brožová-Polednová entered prison in early September of last year after doctors said her state of health enabled her to serve her sentence, but she claims that the jail house in Svetlá nad Sázavou is not able to give her proper medical care. Brožová-Polednová suffers from diabetes and has impaired sight. At 87 she is the country’s oldest prisoner. Late last year President Václav Klaus denied a request from Renata Vesecká, the country’s Supreme State Attorney to pardon Mrs Brožová-Polednová on the grounds of her advanced age.
President Václav Klaus said on Monday that Czechs clearly failed to appreciate the importance of voting in the European elections. Referring to the 28 percent turnout, Mr. Klaus said he was saddened but not surprised by people’s overwhelming lack of interest in European institutions and their failure to recognize the fact that their vote could help decide the future shape of Europe. Despite earlier having described the elections as a waste of time, the eurosceptic Czech president turned out to cast his ballot on Saturday, saying that he was motivated by the hope that this time the vote would result in a European Parliament that was more sensible and more significant than it had proved in the past. He said the failure of Czech eurosceptic parties such as libertas.cz or the newly established Free Citizens’ Party was due to poor PR and an inability to get their message across to the public.
Staying with politics, Czech votes in European Parliament elections will start being counted at 10 PM local time on Sunday. Although Czech polling booths closed on Saturday afternoon, the count has been postponed until citizens of all 27 EU countries have finished voting. Early indications suggest around a quarter of Czechs voted this time round. That would be a fall from the 28.3 percent in 2004. A lower turnout is expected to favour the right-wing Civic Democrats. The European Parliament poll is expected to provide an indicator of party strength ahead of October’s parliamentary elections. Czechs will fill 22 seats in the 736-seat European Parliament.