A January poll by the STEM agency suggests that the ruling Social Democrats have narrowed the opposition Civic Democrats' lead in voter preferences to 1.4 percent from over 5 percent in December. According to the poll, the Social Democrats would get 27.2 percent and the Civic Democrats 28.6 percent of the vote. The opposition Communists would get over 13 percent of votes and the coalition Christian Democrats would get almost 7 percent if elections were held tomorrow. Parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic are scheduled for mid-June.
The manufacturer of the Czech Republic's defect-plagued express trains, Alstom, promised on Wednesday to fix recurrent problems that have kept locomotives out of action. The vice president of the French-based company Alstom, Terence Williams, said on Wednesday that all five of the high-speed Pendolino trains owned by Czech Railways would be repaired. At one stage last week, four of the trains were out of service because of software problems. Transport Minister Milan Simonovsky warned Alstom on Tuesday that the trains would be returned to the manufacturer for good unless the problems were solved.
Czech international Petr Cech has been named the best goalkeeper in the world by the prestigious International Federation of Football History and Statistics. Cech, who is 23 and comes from Plzen, set a number of records in his first season with Chelsea, and helped the club win the English Premiership.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who is on a three-day visit to India, has met the Indian President Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee among others, to discuss primarily economic cooperation between the two countries. Mr Paroubek said on Wednesday that India was interested mainly in complete plants and military materiel. He also said that the Czech Republic, or the former Czechoslovakia, was perceived positively in India, as a number of companies, for instance Bata, have been present in the country since the 1930s.
The town assembly in Lety, south Bohemia, has decided to ask the National Party to remove the stone monument it has built on town-owned land without permission. The small right-wing party said it wanted to unveil the memorial on the site of a former WWII internment camp for Romanies on Saturday. A pig farm, built in the 1970s, is currently located on the site. After years of controversy and a reprimand issued by the European Parliament, the Czech government last year pledged to relocate the pig farm and build a memorial in Lety commemorating the country's Romanies that perished in the Holocaust.
Czech breweries for the first time exported more than 3 million hectolitres (66 million gallons) of beer in 2005, with foreign sales representing almost 16 percent of production, the business daily Hospodarske noviny reported on Wednesday, citing figures it obtained from companies. Alongside traditional export markets, such as Germany, Slovakia and Britain, Czech beer boosted its sales in newer markets, such as Russia.
Parliament on Tuesday recalled Jirina Musilkova from her post at the head of the VZP health insurance company, which is at the centre of a money crisis in the health sector. The insurance company is 11 billion crowns in debt and has been consistently late in its payments to private practitioners and hospitals. The insurance company was put under forced administration late last year, but the situation has not improved significantly.
The police have started looking into the case of Social Democrat MP Michal Kraus, who resigned from the lower house on Monday amidst allegations of corruption. The longest serving MP in Parliament came under fire from the press and political opponents when it emerged that he had participated in a dubious business deal in Ghana without any mandate and in cooperation with a man now serving a ten year sentence for fraud. Michal Kraus maintains that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and was merely taken in by a fraudster. He will not stand for re-election in June, saying he does not want the affair to damage the Social Democrats.
In a related development, private doctors, dentists and pharmacists said on Tuesday they were considering a joint protest strategy. Zoran Jojko, a leading representative of the doctors union, said the backlog in payments could have alarming consequences for both doctors and patients. Two thirds of specialists and private physicians are allegedly in favour of joining the planned strike of pharmacists schedule to take place on January 30th. Health Minister David Rath has come under severe criticism from health sector employees and the opposition Civic Democratic Party for failing to resolve the ongoing crisis.
A technical failure at the Lucebni zavody chemicals plant was to blame for the leak of cyanide into the Labe river, which contaminated a 10 km stretch of the river and poisoned many tons of fish. Environmentalists say damage to river-life was extensive. Specialists who have been monitoring the environment say the concentration levels are slowly decreasing and will most likely drop below those deemed toxic by the time the spill reaches Germany. The cyanide is being gradually eliminated through contact with oxygen. The factory responsible faces a fine of up to ten million crowns.