The Green Party has enough voters' support to gain seats in Parliament,
the result of an opinion poll suggests. The poll, conducted by the STEM
agency, says the party would gain 5.6% of votes if elections were held
this month. The opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats continue to
lead the poll (28.6%), while the Social Democrats, the senior partners
in the ruling coalition, remain in second place (24.5%), though with
2.7% less than last month.
Compared to January, the poll also suggests that the Communists (15.3%) have gained over 2 percent more voters. The only other party that would make it into Parliament is the junior ruling coalition Christian Democratic Party (6.4%). The Freedom Union (the third party in the governing coalition) would only gain 0.3% of voters' support.
President Vaclav Klaus has opened an extensive exhibition of Czech Gothic art from the 14th and 15th centuries at Prague Castle. Organisers are expecting large numbers of visitors, and have limited viewing times to 90 minutes per person. Around 170,000 people visited the exhibition at its previous venue, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Czech authorities are stepping up measures to prevent the possible spread of bird flu into the Czech Republic. From Thursday commercial farmers will be banned from allowing birds to move freely outside, while poultry trade fairs and markets will be prohibited from the beginning of next month. The Ministry of Agriculture says there are around 700 large poultry farms in this country.
Czech customs officials seized 35 million US dollars in counterfeit banknotes in a container from Vietnam last April, a customs spokesperson said on Wednesday. The Czech National Bank this week said the counterfeit notes were of an extremely poor quality. The consignment was addressed to a Vietnamese citizen - he described it as paper for religious purposes. It has not yet been decided whether the police will investigate the matter.
The government has asked Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda to propose a meeting of European Union foreign ministers to formulate a common position on the controversy surrounding cartoons of Mohammad. The cabinet also expressed solidarity with Denmark, which has come under pressure from some Islamic countries over the caricatures, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper.
The Czech film director Jiri Menzel has announced plans to begin filming an adaptation of Bohumil Hrabal's novel I Served the King of England next month. He has been working on a screenplay for the film for several years. Forty years ago Mr Menzel filmed Hrabal's Closely Observed Trains, for which he won an Academy Award in 1967.
The minister of finance, Bohuslav Sobotka, has said he will file slander charges against Vlastimil Tlusty, finance spokesman for the opposition Civic Democrats. Mr Tlusty had earlier filed charges against the minister, who he accused of putting the interests of the bank CSOB before those of the state.
Meanwhile, the Czech charge d'affaires in Iran Michal Cerny who was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Sunday denies having apologized for a re-print of one of the satirical cartoons in the Czech press. The Czech official said he had merely received an official note of protest from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, but had not extended any apologies. The Iranian newsagency IRNA said on Monday the Czech charge d'affaires had apologized for the conduct of the Czech press. The Czech Foreign Ministry has said it sees no reason to apologize, citing freedom of the press in a democratic country.
Health minister David Rath will have to consult any further reform measures with a special government commission, according to the economics daily Hospodarske Noviny. The ministers radical cost-cutting measures have antagonized many health workers associations and the prime minister told the daily that he would like the health minister to get stronger backing from the Cabinet. The paper however indicates that the real reason for the setting up of this commission may be that the health minister is loosing credit with the ruling Social Democratic Party. Doctors, pharmacists and dentists have called a demonstration against the health minister's reforms in Prague on February 24th.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda is seeking to rally EU support for Denmark which faces mounting pressure from Moslem countries following the publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammad. Mr. Svoboda said that while he considers the caricatures in bad taste, the violent reaction to them is unacceptable. The Czech Foreign Minster would like to see the EU take a united stand in condemning the violence and he has suggested that the EU could provide some form of financial compensation to Denmark for the economic losses it has suffered in connection with the scandal.
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