The opposition Social Democrats say they will push for a direct vote for the post of president by the Czech electorate. The party’s leader Jiří Paroubek said on Sunday that in the light of public opinion there was no more opportune time to make the proposal. Many Czechs have been distinctly unimpressed by the horse-trading and alleged “mafia” tactics seen in two recent presidential elections. Direct elections for president are part of the Green Party’s manifesto, while the Communist Party would also support the idea, if there were a limit on campaign financing. The Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats are also willing to consider the proposal.
Václav Klaus has criticised the behaviour of his opponents during two
recent presidential elections. Appearing on a TV debate programme, Mr
accused members of the Social Democrats and Greens – who backed his
opponent Jan Švejnar – of lying in speeches they made during the
elections, something he described as sad and tragic. He said their
statements had provided a breeding ground for the threatening letters
received by some lawmakers who supported him. However, Mr Klaus played
suggestions the sending of bullets and gun powder represented Mafia
practices; he pointed out that benches had been thrown during the election
of T.G. Masaryk in 1920.
The 66-year-old Mr Klaus, one of the most important figures in post-communist Czech politics, was elected for a second five-year term as president on Friday.
Vandals damaged the gorilla enclosure at Prague Zoo on Saturday night. They evidently got in to the enclosure over a frozen moat, before throwing about rubbish bins, signs and other items which had been nearby, a zookeeper said. The gorillas do not use the run in winter so the attack did not endanger their lives, unlike a previous occasion when somebody threw apples studded with nails into their enclosure. The gorillas are among Prague Zoo’s most popular animals and were the focus of the world’s media during a project in which they were constantly monitored by cameras in a parody of “reality” TV.
Meanwhile, defeated presidential candidate Jan Švejnar has said he is considering a career in Czech politics. The US-based academic told TV presenter Václav Moravec he would not rule out standing for a seat in the Senate. Mr Švejnar was little known in the country of his birth three months ago but built up a considerable public profile during the election campaign.
The Czech Republic’s efforts to win visa-free travel to the United States for its citizens do not contravene the country’s obligations towards the European Union, Alexandr Vondra said on Sunday. Mr Vondra said Washington regarded the EU as an association of independent states and discussed the abolition of visa requirements with them individually. The Social Democrats’ shadow foreign minister Lubomír Zaoralek has said Prague’s individual approach destroyed EU unity; he also described the Czech Republic as servile towards the US.
Two Czech Army fighter jets were sent to establish contact with a passenger plane from the United Arab Emirates which accidentally strayed into Czech air space on Saturday morning, the news website Novinky.cz reported. Once contact had been made with the plane, which was bound for London, the two Czech Gripen jets returned to their base at Časlav, an army spokesperson said on Sunday.
Recriminations have continued between governing coalition parties the Civic Democrats, who backed Mr Klaus, and the Greens, who supported Mr Švejnar. Speaking on a live TV programme on Sunday, the Civic Democrats’ Pavel Bém reiterated criticism of the Greens’ late decision to support a public vote and their verbal attacks on the incumbent. The Green’s Kateřina Jacques countered that her party had changed its policy because of a meeting between the head of Mr Klaus’s office and a shady political fixer; she added that polls suggested most Czechs preferred a public vote.
A temperature of minus 22 degrees Celsius was recorded at Horská Kvilda in the Šumava Mountains on Sunday morning. It was the lowest temperature recorded in the Czech Republic this year. A meteorologist told reporters Horská Kvilda can experience lows below minus 30 degrees, adding that this winter has been unusually warm.
Prague will wait for the European Union to agree a common standpoint on Kosovo’s declaration of independence and then proceed in accord with the EU’s position, a Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said. However, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said it would be very difficult for the bloc to agree on a joint stance, given that some states were opposed to Sunday’s historic decision by Kosovo’s parliament; Mr Vondra said it was more likely that individual EU states would adopt their own positions, with some of its biggest members likely to recognise Kosovo’s independence in the very near future.
The France-based English singer and actress Jane Birkin is playing a concert at Prague’s Archa theatre on Saturday night. Birkin is perhaps best known for her collaboration with her second husband Serge Gainsbourg, with whom she recorded several albums and the hit single Je t’aime…moi non plus. The singer, who is 61, is due to perform songs from her most recent albums.
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