President Vaclav Klaus has said he is appalled by the Supreme Court's
decision to invalidate the Senate elections in the Prague 11 constituency.
The court ruled on Friday that the elections in that constituency were
invalid and would have to be repeated because the election campaign had
been conducted in a dishonest manner, in violation of the election law.
One of the unsuccessful candidates in the elections said he had been
damaged by slanderous articles in the press.
President Klaus described the decision of the Supreme Court as "a
dangerous precedent" and "intervention into the country's
political freedom", adding that mud-slinging in the press was not
unusual in the run up to elections and was no reason to invalidate them.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Pavel Nemec said he understood the Court's decision and urged the President to think about the rules of fair play. He said that in criticizing the Court's decision, Vaclav Klaus had acted like a party leader, rather than a president.
Meanwhile, the head of the ruling Social Democrats Stanislav Gross attempted to rally the weakened and divided party for a crucial confrontation with their main rivals in the remaining 18 months to elections. At a meeting of the party's executive leadership, Gross unveiled an eight-point plan which should help the Social Democrats to regain lost ground and restore public trust. Addressing speculation about the possible return of the one time party leader Milos Zeman, Gross said that this could not benefit the party and that in the present day Zeman had little to offer besides criticism and bitterness. Zeman has repeatedly blamed Gross for the party's poor showing in elections and its slide in popularity.
Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl on Saturday visited the Czech military police unit in Shaiba, southern Iraq. He was taken around the military base and spoke with police officers and doctors about the conditions they were working in. The country currently has a 90 member military police unit in Shaiba as well as a small surgical team which works in a British hospital. The Czech Parliament recently extended the Czech unit's stay in Iraq by another two months in connection with the January elections which will involve increased security risks.
The opposition right wing Civic Democratic Party is holding its national party conference this weekend. Addressing some 400 delegates, party leader Mirek Topolanek said the party was "on the brink of success", set to win the next general elections. He urged them to make good use of the party's victory in regional elections and so to convince the public that the Civic Democrats were a party with a vision and a future. Topolanek is running for re-election, the only candidate for the post of party leader.
The Communist Party also planned its strategy for the months ahead at a meeting of its central committee this weekend. Opinion surveys suggest that the party would come second in elections if they were held today. Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek is advocating a change of style, which would attract more voters. He told the gathering that the party should make a point of distancing itself from the past and condemning the crimes committed in the 50s and in 1968. In advocating this new policy line, Miroslav Grebenicek has partly yielded to the party's reform faction headed by Jiri Dolejs and Miroslav Ransdorf. He made no mention though of wanting to change the party's name.
The multinational concern Lasselsberger has been given the go-ahead to build a cement works in Stramberk, north Moravia, creating 130 new jobs in a region with a high unemployment rate. Construction is expected to begin in the first half of 2005. The project had been on the table for about three years but protests from several environmentalist groups delayed decision on the project. Earlier, an appeal was rejected by the Environment Ministry. As it stands the he new cement plant could start operations in 2006, reaching full capacity in 2007.
State attorney Josef Blaha has extended the deadline for police to complete an investigation in the so-called "Koristka affair", an alleged bribery case in which government MP Zdenek Koristka claimed he had been offered a bribe of ten million crowns - and a diplomatic post - if he helped bring down the government in a confidence vote during the summer. The MP has claimed he was offered the bribe by a lobbyist and an assistant connected to the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party. Currently, police are expected to wrap up their investigation by January 5th.