Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said poor strategy was to blame for the second failed attempt to elect a successor to President Vaclav Havel on Friday. Mr Spidla, leader of the senior coalition Social Democrats, said nominating the party's former leader Milos Zeman was a mistake. Mr Zeman was knocked out in the first round of the election, a joint session of the two houses of parliament. Mr Zeman's poor showing has highlighted deep divisions within the Social Democrats, after it emerged that many in his own party voted against him. Mr Spidla - who bitterly opposed Mr Zeman's nomination - says any consequences of the failure will be decided at the Social Democrats' national conference in March.
Party leaders are due to meet to discuss when - and whether - to hold a third election. Some politicians want to change the constitution to allow a popular vote, something which enjoys strong public support. The country will most likely be left without a head of state when President Havel steps down on February 2.
Friday's election - the second in 10 days - ended in failure after none of the three candidates won a sufficient majority. Former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus - nominated by the opposition Civic Democrats - once again made the strongest showing, falling just 14 votes short of becoming president. Senator Jaroslava Moserova, nominated by the two smaller parties in the ruling coalition, came second.
A second attempt to find a successor to President Vaclav Havel has ended
in failure. A third round of voting at Prague Castle by both houses of the
Czech parliament early on Friday evening saw neither the Civic Democrats'
Vaclav Klaus nor Jaroslava Moserova, who was nominated by the Christian
Democrats and the Freedom Union, receive the necessary majority of all
Mr Klaus won the most support in the third round - as he did in the first
presidential election on January 15 - but was still 14 votes short.
Earlier a third candidate, former Social Democrat prime minister Milos
Zeman, was knocked out in the first round.
A third presidential election may now be held, though no date has been set as yet and some parties would prefer to amend the constitution to allow for a direct vote, which would mean a period without a head of state. Current president Vaclav Havel steps down on February 2, after 13 years in office.
The eve of the Czech presidential elections has seen some last minute meetings by some of the candidates: on Thursday the Social Democratic Party's nominee, Milos Zeman, met with members of the Czech Senate in order to try and drum up additional support in his bid for the presidency. Analysts so far are speculating the race is too close to call - it is even possible the elections could end in another stalemate. Three candidates in all are taking part in the race: former Social Democrat chairman Milos Zeman, Senator Jaroslava Moserova, and former prime minister Vaclav Klaus. It will be the a second attempt in two weeks to find a successor to outgoing President Vaclav Havel. Friday's voting will get underway at ten o'clock, when both houses of parliament meet in a joint-session.
Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has stated the Czech unit in Kuwait taking part in the operation 'Enduring Freedom' could receive reinforcements of 130 soldiers by the end of the week. Around 350 Czech military personnel will eventually to be stationed in the region, though Mr Tvrdik did not state an estimate Thursday indicating how long their mission might last. The Czech anti-chemical unit has already spent nearly half a year at the American base of Camp Dauha, and were originally expected to return home in March. However, the Czech government recently met a US request to lengthen the unit's operation in the area to provide assistance in case war breaks out with Iraq.
Five of the twenty-seven members of the Czech anti-chemical unit currently deployed in Kuwait who had asked their superiors to return home early have decided to stay. According to the head of their contingent, Dusan Lupuljev, the soldiers were unhappy with the way the Czech media has been reporting on the unit, labelling those members who requested to return home as cowards. For five months, the Czech anti-chemical and nuclear warfare unit has been part of the US-led 'Enduring Freedom' operation and some soldiers have been complaining about the psychological pressure connected with their mission.
The Civic Democratic Party's presidential candidate, Vaclav Klaus, has criticised methods used by the Social Democrats to gain support for their own candidate, Milos Zeman, in the upcoming elections. Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Mr Klaus said that an unfair presidential campaign, which includes trading and promising favours, was launched in parliament when Mr Zeman was nominated. On Friday, Mr Zeman, Mr Klaus and Senator Jaroslava Moserova, who was elected by the two junior coalition parties (the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union) will stand against each other in a second attempt to elect a successor to current President Vaclav Havel.
Both reactors of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia are now generating electricity, after the plant's first reactor was connected to the national power grid on Wednesday morning. Since the beginning of the year, technical failure has seen the plant's reactors shut down on numerous occasions. The latest was on Monday due to a leaking turbine pipe in the plant's first reactor - just two days after the second reactor, crippled by a leak-related shutdown earlier this month, was restarted and connected to the national power grid.
Britain has returned around 90 Czech citizens - almost all of whom believed to be members of the Roma minority - after they were denied asylum in the UK. It was the latest in a series of forcible repatriations of Czech Roma by the British authorities. British officials recently resumed screening all passengers flying to the United Kingdom from Prague's Ruzyne airport. Britain first launched the controls in June 2001, in an effort to prevent Czech Roma from applying for asylum in the UK.