The opposition Civic Democrats swept regional and Senate elections in the
Czech Republic on Saturday, finishing ahead of both the Communist Party
and the ruling Social Democrats in a key electoral test. Out of a possible
675 regional mandates the right-of-centre Civic Democrats secured 291
seats, followed by the Communists with 157, and the Social Democrats with
The Civic Democrats' exceptional performance means they dominate in 12 of 13 of the country's regions.
The Civic Democrats were equally convincing in the Senate race where one-third of seats was up for grabs. One Civic Democrat candidate won outright, while a further 20 Civic Democrat candidates hold leads going into the second round to be decided in a week's time.
In all 26 Senate seats remain to be decided with the Communist Party, the Social Democrats, the Freedom Union, the Christian Democrats also in contention - as well as smaller parties like the European Democrats and the Greens vying to reach the Senate for the first time.
The Czech Tourist Office has revealed statistics showing that over 72 million tourists visited the Czech Republic in the first three quarters of 2004 - roughly the same as the previous year. The vast majority of visits, however, involve day-trips in which tourists come to the country on short business trips or to shop. According to the tourist office the number of tourists who actually spend at least one night in the country is around 5 million per year. The Czech Tourist Office has reported that the number of visitors from neighbouring countries has actually fallen in 2004, despite a simplification of procedures at border crossings following EU accession in May.
Tennis player Radek Stepanek has missed an opportunity to win his first ATP title - the prestigious Paris Masters. On Sunday the Czech player was downed in the final by Russia's Marat Safin, who had previously won the title in 2000 and 2002. Stepanek lost in three sets 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, making 48 unforced errors to Safin's 18. Safin's win makes him only the 2nd player to ever win the Paris Masters three times. Germany's Boris Becker was the 1st.
The weekend's election results - in particular the ruling Social
Democrats' poor finish - were greeted as bad news for Prime Minister
Stanislav Gross, who took over as chairman of his party in June. The
regional and Senate elections were widely gauged as Mr Gross' first
serious electoral challenge, a measure of public opinion ahead of
parliamentary elections in two years' time. But, his party came up
short and some notable Social Democrats have been unable to hide their
Mr Gross has himself commented his party's performance by saying he was "not happy" with the results, although he added they were an improvement over his party's dismal finish in European parliamentary elections earlier in the year. Mr Gross also said the low voter turn-out, just shy of 30 percent, had benefited the other parties.
Finally, on Sunday Czech President Vaclav Klaus - who is honorary chairman of the Civic Democratic Party - also commented the election results by issuing a written statement saying that voters had sent an "extraordinarily important signal" to him and Czech society.
In the statement Mr Klaus said that the results of the elections showed the current coalition government was "not steering the country in the right direction".
The Czech star hockey player Jaromir Jagr has played his last game in the Czech league and signed with Russia's Omsk. Jagr reached agreement with the club on Saturday; Omsk is currently 12th in the Russian league. Jagr's last game for Kladno, where he had been playing due to the NHL lockout, saw the star forward help down opponents Liberec on a score line of 5-4.
The Social Democrats' party chairman Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has rued his party's poor performance in the both the regional and Senate elections; on Saturday Mr Gross told journalists that he was "not happy" with the results. But, Mr Gross suggested that low voter turn-out had helped both the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats and the Communist Party; he did say at the moment it appeared he had little choice but to congratulate the Civic Democratic Party. The regional and Senate elections were widely seen as the prime minister's first big political test since taking over leadership of his party, following the Social Democrats' dismal showing in European parliamentary elections in June.
The Czech Republic registered this year's first snowfall in Krusny Hory (Krusny Mountains) near the region of the famous Bohemian spa town Karlovy Vary. Two centimetres of snow covered roads in the area. Snow was expected in the area after temperatures dropped Friday. This evening the area will see just 0 degrees Celsius.
This Saturday afternoon polls closed bringing to an end two days of
regional and Senate elections in the Czech Republic. The polls closed at
two in the afternoon local time. As was widely predicated voter turn-out
was on the low end of the scale, at around just 29 percent.
With the majority of constituencies in the regions now counted success for the right-of centre Civic Democrats, led by party chairman Mirek Topolanek, is certain.
In the race for regional governments the opposition Civic Democrats have garnered the greatest percentage of votes, leading in 12 out of 13 regions, which they are expected to win. The Communist Party, and the ruling Social Democrats came in 2nd and 3rd in voter preference. One region in south Moravia is being closely contested by the Christian Democrats.
In the Senate, meanwhile, 65 percent of the ballots counted show the Civic Democrats leading in 15 Senate races, while the Communists lead in 6, and the Christian Democrats in 4. Smaller party representatives are vying for the last two spots.
Senate run-offs will take place in two weeks' time.
Police have found the body of Stanislav Brunclik, a businessman
abducted by kidnappers in late September. The abductors were paid
several million crowns in ransom by the victim's father, but Mr
Brunclik, who was 33, was never released. Following a police search
lasting over a month the man's body was finally found buried in a
forest in the Pardubice region of east Bohemia.
Police have already arrested two suspects in the case: two men in their mid-twenties; if found guilty of murder each could face between 12 and 15 years in prison, or could even be given extraordinary sentences of 25 years.
The ruling Social Democrats have successfully pushed a bill through the
Chamber of Deputies banning the further transformation of hospitals to
businesses by regional authorities in the Czech Republic. Some regions
had been considering transforming local hospitals to joint-stock
companies to help with their financial management a move some critics
had said threatened the availability of balanced health care. The fear
was that the hospitals might focus only on more lucrative programmes.
But, the Social Democrats' bill on Friday was opposed by the opposition Civic Democrats, who say the ban is 'unconstitutional' - intervening in regional governments' authority. Regional governors have already criticised the bill and say they will protest the move.
The issue may also go to the Constitutional Court.