Some 500 soldiers who are joining the country's professional army pledged their allegiance at Prague Castle on Saturday. The soldiers, among them several dozen women, made their pledges in front of President Klaus, Defence Minister Jiri Sedivy, Chief-of-Staff General Pavel Stefka and members of their families. President Klaus also named five new generals and general Stefka named 19 new colonels.
Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek says his party lost potential votes due to the recent arrests of several former Social Democrats. The party has secured five more seats than it enjoyed before the elections but had eleven candidates in the running. Mr Paroubek considers the arrests part of a smear campaign to undermine his party. Complaints and law suits will be filed, he told reporters on Saturday.
Czechs marked the 88th anniversary of the foundation of an independent Czechoslovak state on Saturday. The national holiday continues to be celebrated in the Czech Republic although Czechoslovakia no longer exists. The country split into two separate states - the Czech Republic and Slovakia - on January 1st 1993. Neighbouring Slovakia no longer marks the event with a state holiday.
The Civic Democrats have come out the clear winners of the elections of one-third of the Senate. Of the 27 seats that were up for grabs in the 81-seat upper house of Parliament, the right-of-centre party secured fourteen. Their biggest rivals, the centre-left Social Democrats won six seats, and the centre-right Christian Democrats four. The remaining three seats were divided between the Party for an Open Society, the Independent Mayors, and an independent candidate. Neither the Communists nor the Greens managed to win enough votes to secure a seat. The senators are elected for six-year terms.
As has become tradition for every seated Czech head of state, President
Vaclav Klaus marked October 28th with several events. At Lany, near
Prague, Mr Klaus laid a wreath at the grave of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk,
the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia. The Czech President
also received foreign diplomats.
At a ceremony at Prague Castle on Saturday evening, President Klaus will award state honours and medals of bravery to over twenty personalities. Though it has not been revealed who will receive the state distinctions, it is believed that they will include cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova, Chairwoman of the Confederation of Political Prisoners Nadezda Kavalirova, football legend Josef Masopust, and actress Iva Janzurova.
The Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats have enough seats in
Parliament to change the constitution if they were to join forces. The
two parties have 53 of the 81 seats in the Senate and 155 of the 200
seats in the Chamber of Deputies. In order to amend the constitution,
they will not have to depend on a single vote from the smaller parties.
Together with the Christian Democrats, the Civic Democrats have 52 of the 81 seats in the Senate.
Police arrested three members of the Vlastenecka Fronta, or Patriotic
Front, for propagating Nazism during a gathering in Prague on Saturday.
The extreme-right grouping marked the foundation of Czechoslovakia with
their traditional march from Prague's Palacky Square, named after
nineteenth century historian and politician Frantisek Palacky (often
called the Father of the Czech Nation), to Vysehrad Castle.
Five members of the extreme-right Nationalist Party, including their leader Petra Edelmannova, have also been detained. In an attempt to attract people to a gathering at Prague's Wenceslas Square on Saturday, party members distributed flyers with caricatures of Muslim figures under the caption "Let's Burn Hatred".
At the traditional October 28th ceremony at the national memorial on
Prague's Vitkov Hill, a minute of silence was held to commemorate those
who fell in battle and wreaths were laid at the memorial of Hussite
warrior Jan Zizka. Besides hundreds of spectators, the event was
attended by senior politicians like the president, prime minister,
defence minister, and Senate chairman, as well as the Army's
chief-of-staff, and members of the Czechoslovak Union of Freedom
A separate ceremony was also held in Prague's National Museum on Saturday, organised annually by the Czechoslovak Union of Freedom Fighters and the Union of Czechoslovak Legions.