Czechs voted for a second day on Saturday in Senate and local elections that could mark a turning point in the country's drawn out political crisis. Voting took place for local town and city councils and for a third of lawmakers in the 81-seat upper house of parliament, the Senate. Some 180 parties and movements contested seats on town and city councils, with the battle in Prague winning the most attention. Polling stations closed at 14hrs CET on Saturday with results expected late in the night or Sunday morning. A second round of voting for the Senate takes place next weekend in constituencies where no candidate has won more than 50 percent of the vote.
With approximately half of the votes counted it is the centre right Civic Democrats who have the lead in both the Senate and local elections. Preliminary results indicate a 47 percent turnout. Interest in the elections has been sharpened by its likely impact on the country's drawn-out political crisis which followed June's inconclusive general elections.
The Senate election results could tip the constitutional balance of power and thus indirectly influence not just the set up of the country's next government, but the outcome of the next presidential election in 2008 and possible changes to the Constitution.
President Vaclav Klaus who cast his vote on Saturday morning, said he did not think the outcome of the elections would have a decisive impact on the talks on forming a new government. Mr. Klaus, who has been holding talks with party leaders in order to ascertain their position on a future government set up, has made it clear that he would not name a new prime minister designate until after the second round of Senate elections next week.
The speaker of the lower house Miloslav Vlcek said on Saturday the Social Democrats may file a complaint challenging the regularity of the elections because of the way the media reported on a corruption scandal surrounding people close to the Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek. Less than 48 hours before polling stations opened a former deputy minister for regional development who is charged with abusing EU structural funds told police investigators that the former Social Democrat prime minister Jiri Paroubek was involved in the fraudulent practices she was accused of. Mr. Vlcek said some journalists had reported on the case as if the Social Democrat leader were guilty. The Social Democrat leader has said he is not in favor of filing a complaint.
Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil is considering pressing charges against Jana Hybaskova, head of the European Democrats, who recently accused him and two other Civic Democrat officials of corruption. Mrs. Hybaskova said last Tuesday that a representative of the governing party had asked her for a three million crown bribe in a certain financial transaction which was to be paid to Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil, Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty and another unnamed party deputy. Mr. Pospisil said the accusations were outrageous and unless Mrs. Hybaskova publicly apologized he would take her to court.
President Klaus told journalists that he had done his utmost to promote Prague as the seat of the Galileo European Navigation system at Friday's informal EU summit in Finland. I do not like lobbying but I feel I may have scored a point, Mr. Klaus told reporters on his return. The Galileo European Navigation System is a joint initiative of the European Commission and European Space Agency. It should be launched sometime in 2008 and eleven states have made a bid to host it.
The former president Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar will be spending the next four months in the United States where Mr. Havel is expected to give several lectures. The Havels will attend a theatre festival of Mr. Havel's work and divide their time between New York and Washington. Vaclav Havel recently turned seventy.
Tenth seed Gonzalez reached his first Masters Series final when he defeated the Czech numer one Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-1. Berdych folded under the pressure of a hostile home crowd, while Gonzalez gave him no respite as he pounded him with his pin-point serve and wrapped up victory in 52 minutes. "I've never seen anything like it, it's like a bad dream. It's not a tennis crowd," Berdych said later. Berdych beat defending champion and local hero Rafael Nadal in the quarters, provoking the anger of the world number two and local fans.
The next few days are expected to be partly cloudy to overcast with afternoon highs reaching 18 degrees Celsius.
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