The chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, and the leader of the country's largest opposition party, the Civic Democrat's Mirek Topolanek, have faced off in a special televised debate. The programme was broadcast live by public broadcaster Czech TV on Sunday. It focused on key issues in this year's election run-up, including the state of health care and health care reforms, corruption, the state of the economy, and foreign policy issues - namely the future of the European Union. The debate comes less than a week before Czechs go to the polls - on June 2nd and 3rd - to decide on the country's next government.
Almost two thirds of the populace are not interested in the pre-election campaigns leading up to Parliamentary elections next weekend, a survey conducted by the CVVM agency has suggested. According to the poll, only around 40 percent of the public has been drawn into campaign issues, among them university students and older citizens. The least interested are those with basic educations and those between 15 and 29 years of age. 37 percent say they haven't enough information about candidates to Parliament, although they have a better understanding of party programmes. Around 1,000 people were interviewed in the survey conducted at the beginning of May. Two thirds predicted a victory by the opposition Civic Democrats, one third the Social Democrats, while only two percent said elections would be won by the Communists.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has responded to a number of his critics - including the prime minister - in a row over comments the president made recently on a visit to Estonia: Mr Klaus said that he could not envisage a ratification of the EU constitution by the Czech Republic. The president's words drew a sharp response from a number of public figures, with Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek indicating that it was the government and not the president that was responsible for foreign policy. On Friday, the president's office responded by saying that the prime minister was stoking the clash to try and draw the head of state into a "pre-election campaign". Czechs go to the polls on June 2nd and 3rd next week.
Former political prisoners jailed by Czechoslovakia's Communist regime
in the 1950s, met at the former site of a notorious labour camp at
Jachymov, west Bohemia, on Saturday to commemorate the memory of those
who suffered and those who died. The 1950s saw the establishment of
some 15 forced labour camps in Czechoslovakia that jailed some 100,000
prisoners. The annual event organised by the Confederation of Political
Prisoners saw a number of speakers address the current political
situation in the Czech Republic - with a number of speakers warning of
growing influence of the Communist Party.
Every year, the memorial event is attended by fewer survivors: this year's ceremony was attended by some 400 people.
Police have been monitoring the activities of around 100 right-wing extremists gathered for a planned march in Hodonin. Mostly members of a single organisation, those present will demonstrate against so-called "positive discrimination". Police have refused to reveal how many officers will monitor the event. But, a spokesman has said there will be enough present for the situation to not get out of hand. A local deputy major had expressed worries that right-wing extremists and opposing anarchists might clash. Originally, members of the right-wing group had planned to demonstrate elsewhere but were not given permission. Their current demonstration has officially been allowed.
The Foreign Ministry has said that it will send humanitarian aid worth up to five million crowns to Indonesia, hit by a massive earthquake on Saturday. Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar said that the decision was taken by Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, adding that a precise sum and form of aid will be chosen on Sunday. Czech ambassador to Indonesia Jaroslav Vesely is assessing damages to areas hit. The earthquake that hit the ancient royal city of Yogyakarta and surroundings on the island of Java on Saturday ranked 6.2 degrees on the Richter scale. According to reports the natural disaster killed more than 3,000 people while thousands more were injured.
Czech footballers and the national football association have agreed to
channel some of their World Cup earnings into a fund to develop young
football talent in the Czech Republic. Around five percent of the
national association's and players' earnings from participation in the
opening group stage of the tournament will be channelled into the fund.
That should amount to around five million crowns - the equivalent of
about 225,000 US dollars. In addition, a group of six players,
including Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky, Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky, Tomas
Galasek and Tomas Ujfalusi have called for their own representative on
the board of the new fund. According to the Czech Football
association's president they want the chance to "follow the flow of
money" and to propose some possibilities for projects in the future.
In the World Cup, which kicks off on June 9th, the Czechs will first face Italy, the United States and Ghana.
The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic has officially distanced itself from a group which on Wednesday declared its disapproval of President Vaclav Klaus' criticism of the European Union. Academy of Sciences President, Vaclav Paces, says that his institution is scientific and apolitical in nature, and that the 66 prominent Czech scholars who signed a letter in protest of President Klaus' opinions do not represent the Academy's position, and were merely expressing their personal opinions. President Vaclav Klaus is known for his criticism of EU integration, and at least fifteen Academy members signed the official letter of protest against him. Among the signatories were Senator Josef Jarab, and philosopher and former presidential candidate Jan Sokol.