This Saturday, April 21, was the warmest day of the year so far in the Czech Republic with the temperature hitting 29 degrees Celsius in places. Meteorologists reported that records for the day had been broken at some 100 of 147 measuring stations. Many Czechs took the opportunity to spend at least part of the day outdoors.
Vojtěch Filip has been re-elected chairman of the Communist Party.
He was elected in a second-round secret ballot, narrowly defeating "orthodox wing" head Josef Skála. Mr Filip is himself regarded as a more hardline leader than some in the party.
In the ballot he received 165 votes and his challenger 145. The congress is taking place behind closed doors following an address by the president earlier on Saturday.
The police had to step in to prevent a number of demonstrators in Nymburk
from crashing the Communist Party congress after the departure of President
Miloš Zeman on Saturday. Members of the force as well a on-site
anti-conflict team stopped demonstrators on the stairs of the local town
hall and persuaded them to turn back.
The demonstration in front of the town hall is continuing as planned and has been attended by several hundred people including public figures such as first-round presidential candidate Michal Horáček and TOP 09 senator Tomáš Czernin. Protestors have expressed opposition to the Communist Party being legitimized, as they see it, by the current head of state as well as politicians seeking to form a minority government.
Church representatives and hundreds of believers met at Prague's St.
Vitus Cathedral on Saturday to welcome the return of Cardinal Josef
Beran's remains at the end their journey from St. Peter's
Basilica. The cardinal, whose name came to symbolize opposition to
totalitarian regimes, died in Rome in 1969. His last wish was for his
remains to one day be returned to his homeland.
The cardinal's coffin arrived in Prague on Friday evening by military plane and was greeted by a special delegation.
Church bells were rung across the Czech capital to mark the historic occasion.
On Saturday, the coffin was transported to St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle by a horse-drawn open carriage. Cardinal Dominik Duka welcomed the return of his predecessor in a mass dedicated to Saint Vojtěch.
Over the next three days, the coffin will remain on display for anyone to come and kneel before to pay their respects.
Around 200 people gathered in Nymburk on Saturday morning to protest
against the Communist Party as well as President Zeman, who attended the
party's congress. More demonstrators are expected during the day, with
as many as 600 having signed up to take part, the Czech News Agency wrote.
Protestors, the agency said, had carried signs with slogans reading "You should be ashamed", "Throw Miloš in the bin" and "Czechia isn't Russia" in opposition to the president's attendance at the convention as well as his pro-Russia policies. The crowd also shouted slogans against the communists, labeling the party the "same gang of people as always".
Organisers of the event also arranged for a tractor with a flatbed trailer to be parked from across from City Hall in Nymburk to be used as a pulpit of sorts by demonstrators, parodying similar communist-era practices and imagery.
President Miloš Zeman reminded delegates of the Communist Party at their
convention in Nymburk, east of Prague on Saturday that so-called Victorious
February (Vítězný únor, when the Communists seized power in
Czechoslovakia in 1948) was anything but and had led to totalitarian rule.
He recalled democrats such as Milada Horáková or General Helidor Píka who were murdered by the regime, saying those had not been "mistakes or deformations" of the system "but crimes". In his speech he said he wished he could with a clear conscience call the Communists "a democratic party" and appealed to delegates to exercise greater self-reflection moving forward.
Mr Zeman is the first post-1989 president to attend a Communist Party convention.
For the first time since 1989, the Communists hold important cards when it comes to the formation of the next government: the president warned the Communist Party not to make exaggerated demands and not to miss the opportunity at hand.
The election-winners ANO and the Social Democrats are currently negotiating a minority government which will effectively require their support in most key votes including a vote of confidence in the lower house.
The Communist Party is due to elect a new leadership at its congress in
Nymburk following dismal results in parliamentary elections last October.
In the election, the party clinched just 7.76 percent of the vote for 15
seats in the lower house.
Despite the result, the party is now expected to play a key role in the formation of the new government, either a coalition between ANO and the Social Democrats or ANO alone, who lack enough seats for a majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
With tacit support from the Communists, a minority government of ANO and the Social Democrats would be able to rely on 108 MPs in the 200-member house. Support, however, is only likely with concessions from the emerging government.
At the convention, chairman Vojtěch Filip is facing challengers for the post of party leader, including a bid by Euro MP Kateřina Konečná and Mr Filip's close rival and head of the party's "orthodox" wing Josef Skála. Filip has been chairman of the party for 12 years.
The head-of-state Miloš Zeman will speak at the Communist Party congress,
a step never taken by his predecessors Václav Havel or Václav Klaus. The
communists are meeting at the municipal house in Nymburk to elect a new
leadership, including party chairperson.
Despite a poor finish in last year's election, the Communists are in position to influence the formation of a new government for the first time since the Velvet Revolution which swept them from power in 1989. The party's tacit support is likely to be needed by acting PM Andrej Babiš if his ANO party and the Social Democrats agree on a new government. The latter agreed to continue negotiations on Friday following an offer by ANO which included heading five ministries including the Ministry of the Interior.
President Zeman has pushed for Mr Babiš to reach a deal with the Social Democrats, either with outside support from the Communists or from both the Communists and the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy. He does not consider early elections an option.