Polls have opened for the second round of Senate elections in which citizens will decide who will occupy 27 seats in the upper house. Polls are open until 22:00 on Friday, and again between 8:00 and 14:00 on Saturday. The right-of-center Civic Democrats have the strongest showing after the first round of elections which took place last weekend; 26 Civic Democratic candidates made it through to the second round, and the party stands a chance of gaining a majority in the upper house. The Social Democrats are the second strongest party in the race. The second round of Senate elections could draw about 2.8 million people to the polls, though voter turn-out is expected to be lower, as it has traditionally been in previous Senate elections.
The Czech Ministry of Health has issued an advisory to citizens who bought a set of plastic kitchen utensils made in China. The five-piece set was sold in the Czech Republic on shelves of the discount retailer Plus, and has been found to release dangerous carcinogenic agents. The kitchen utensils have been ordered removed from store shelves, and customers who purchased the items are entitled to a full refund. Carcinogenic agents have been found to increase the chances of cancer.
Temperature records show that it has been an unusually warm autumn in the Czech Republic. While traditional norms connect the end of October with frosty temperatures, temperatures highs have instead been breaking records. On Friday, Prague's Klementinum registered a high of 20.6 degrees Celsius, breaking a 165 year-old record; the previous record of 19.8 degrees Celsius on October 27 was set back in 1841. Thursday also saw warm temperature records fall in the Moravian cities of Brno (18.2 Celsius) and Ostrava (20.5 Celsius), and the Czech capital. Meteorologists are predicting a sharp change over the weekend, with daytime highs dropping to a maximum 14 degrees Celsius.
Social Democratic MP Michal Pohanka, who on Wednesday announced his
resignation from the ranks of the Social Democratic Party by email and
went into hiding, returned to the lower house on Friday morning. Mr.
Pohanka appeared in the lower house and met with Social Democratic leader
Jiri Paroubek. According to Mr. Paroubek, the two men have cleared the air
and Michal Pohanka will continue to vote in-line with Social Democrats on
key issues of the party's program, even though he is no longer a party
Mr. Pohanka confirmed the position in an interview for the on-line server Aktualne.cz on Friday afternoon, but he specified that he and Mr. Paroubek did not discuss the issue of who the now-unaligned MP will support in a vote of confidence. Mr. Pohanka has not clarified is position on the issue for reporters either, saying only that he remains "an independent MP now." It is thus unclear whether the scales in the lower house will tip from the current 100 - 100 seat deadlock. Every vote now plays a decisive role in the 200 seat lower house which is equally divided between the right and left-wing parties. The Czech Republic has been without a stable government since elections in early June.
Meanwhile, the Social Democratic Party is no longer insisting that Michal Pohanka give up his seat in the lower house, which he won as a Social Democratic candidate in the June elections. After meeting with Mr. Paroubek at the lower house on Friday morning, Mr. Pohanka did not stay for the day's proceedings in the house, and a Social Democratic spokesperson cited "security reasons" for his quick departure under police escort.
The first section of a long-awaited new motorway in the south Moravian region of Zlin has opened. The section of the planned R55 highway which is to eventually link the Moravian cities of Olomouc and Breclav is open to drivers as of Friday afternoon. The first stretch of highway to open, a ring bypassing the city of Otrokovice near Zlin, took five years to complete and cost over 1.4 billion crowns (nearly $63 million US). The R55 highway plan was put forth in 1993 and once completed, it is expected to be one of the busiest highways in the Czech Republic.
Czech tennis veteran Jiri Novak, once ranked fifth in the world, ended his top playing career after a second round loss at the Swiss Indoor tournament in Basel on Thursday. The 31-year old had already declared that Basel, where he won the last of his seven major singles tournaments two years ago, would be his last major competition. Novak, now 122 in the ATP rankings, has been plagued over the last year by injury problems. He still counts on playing in smaller tournaments. Jiri Novak reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2002 and was for many years the Czech number one player.
The Foreign Ministry has announced that three young Czechs were detained at Buenos Aires international airport on Sunday on suspicion of drug trafficking. According to Czech diplomats in Argentina, several grams of cocaine were found on the men. Forty-five Czech nationals are known to have been arrested outside the country in connection with drug-related crime since January, which is the highest number in the last three years.
The government on Wednesday approved the sale of the state-owned plane manufacturer Aero Vodochody to the investment group Penta for the price of 2.91 billion crowns. The second highest bid by the consortium PPF and JT was 1,2 billion crowns lower. Penta sees Aero's main potential in cooperating with leading world producers of aircraft and aircraft parts. It now has three restructuring priorities: development and production of aircraft and components within broader cooperation projects, construction of airport Vodochody and cooperation with the Czech army.
Czech lawmakers have approved the main lines of the 2007 state budget in its first reading, overcoming political stalemate which has gripped the country since June's legislative elections. The budget proposal, which counts on a deficit of 91.3 billion crowns (3.22 billion euros, 4.05 billion dollars) was backed by all the parties represented in the lower house with the exception of the Communists. The budget was proposed by the caretaker Civic Democrat government. Last-minute support was won from the second-biggest party, the Social Democrats, with a promise that further consultations would take place before the sale of any shares in Czech power giant, CEZ. The budget must go through three readings in the lower house and then be approved by the president before it becomes law.
The Czech state-controlled carrier Czech Airlines says it carried 4.2 million passengers in the first nine months of the year, a 5-percent rise compared with the same period in 2005. The airline said the increase was largely due to highter demand on routes to Eastern Europe. CSA reported a loss of 773 million crowns (27.3 million euros, 34.3 million dollars) in the first half of the year compared with 533 million koruna in the same period a year earlier. The company is implementing a plan to break even by 2008 that includes the sale of none-core assets such as its catering division and Prague cargo terminal.