Two rounds of voting fail in the Czech presidential election failed to
produce a new head of state on Friday evening. Neither the incumbent,
Václav Klaus, nor his challenger Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar
were able to secure majorities in both houses of Parliament in Friday’s
joint-session. In the first round, Mr Klaus received a majority in the
Senate with 47 senators voting for him, while his challenger won a majority
in the Chamber of Deputies. A second round followed shortly afterwards,
also proving inconclusive. Both candidates, however, have made it to the
third a final round of the election, now set for Saturday.
Lawmakers from both houses of Parliament will reconvene their joint-session at Prague Castle at 10 am to try and elect the new president. Unlike the first two rounds in which a majority in both houses is needed to win, the third pools votes from both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.
For most of Friday it appeared it wouldn’t come down to a vote at all:
the 281 MPs and senators present failed for hours to agree on an actual
voting method, as voting can be either public or secret. The deadlock was
finally broken shortly after 8 pm on Friday evening. Civic Democrat
legislators first failed to pass a motion proposing the presidential ballot
be secret, guaranteeing the public vote.
To recap: lawmakers in the election are choosing between 66-year-old Václav Klaus, who has almost twenty years experience in Czech politics and is seeking a second five-year term. His challenger Jan Švejnar is a US-based economist and relative newcomer to the Czech political scene, although he was an advisor to former president Václav Havel in the 1990s. Reasons for the deadlock on the voting method on Friday may vary, but it was widely considered that a secret ballot would favour incumbent Václav Klaus, while an open ballot might provide his opponent Jan Švejnar with an advantage.
The head of the Constitutional Court, Pavel Rychetský said earlier on Friday that – if petitioned by lawmakers - the court would rule quickly on the matter of public and private voting in the presidential election. It is conceivable, he suggested, that the Senate vote could be secret, while the Chamber of Deputies vote would remain public, although the results of both would be revealed only after both proceedings had ended. The Czech Constitution allows for both options of voting. Some observers have already stated that if lawmakers' fail to agree on procedure in Friday’s election, it could lead to a “constitutional crisis”.
A Czech court has acquitted former Czech police officer Tomáš Čermák on the charge of having attacked Kateřina Jacques, a Green Party official who is now a lower house deputy. Mr Čermák was accused of having beaten up Ms Jacques up when she protested against neo-Nazis demonstrating in Prague in May 2006. After the incident, which was partly caught on camera, Mr Čermák was sacked from the police and accused of abuse of power and inflicting bodily harm. The defence said that during the demonstration the defendant had repeatedly asked Jacques not to enter a zone where she would come into direct contact with attendees of the neo-Nazi rally. The defense had also argued that Jacques aimed to gain publicity ahead of a general election in June 2006.
Czech Railways is to seek billions of crowns in funding from public finances to rebuild its aging carriage stock. The news was revealed by the head of Czech Railways Petr Žaluda on Friday, suggesting that an estimated 17 billion crowns (the equivalent of almost 1 billion US dollars) annually was needed. Transport Minister Aleš Řebíček has indicated that there may be opportunity to meet the request. Currently Czech Railways has 1,000 locomotives and 4,000 carriage cars which average 20 years in service. The Transport Minister has made clear that the need to invest in new vehicles to replace aging cars is a priority.
The police have revealed that they apprehended a suspect - a former member of the criminal police – wanted for involvement in the theft of more than 500,000 crowns (the equivalent of around 28 thousand US dollars) in 2007. The suspect and two others have been taken into custody. The three allegedly robbed a Ukrainian national of the money.
In National Hockey League action on Thursday Václav Prospal scored the
overtime winner, lifting Tampa Bay 2:1 over the Nashville Predators. He
scored in the first minute of overtime; the goal is Prospal’s 23rd this
season. The České Budějovice native was also named the game‘s first
In other action, the Montreal Canadiens’ Tomáš Plekanec notched up a goal and an assist in a 4:2 loss to Toronto. Plekanec is one point ahead of Prospal as the most productive Czech player in the NHL. Robert Lang and Martin Havlát helped the Chicago Black Hawks defeat the Calgary Flames 3:1. Lang scored twice in the game, while Havlát racked up one assist.
Czech lawmakers are due to elect a new president on Friday in a joint
session of the two houses of Parliament. President Vaclav Klaus is seeking
reelection in the face of a challenge from Czech-American economics
professor Jan Svejnar.
The vote starts at 10 am with speeches by both presidential candidates,
but risks being derailed by a disagreement between the 200-seat Chamber of
Deputies and the 81-strong Senate over whether the vote should be secret or
The Senate, dominated by the ruling Civic Democrats, wants a secret ballot
while the Chamber of Deputies favours a public vote. The Czech Constitution
does not specify how the vote should be held. Failure to agree on this
important aspect could see the presidential election postponed indefinitely
until a solution is found.
In related news, President Klaus has reacted to the stand-off between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate by calling it a ‘ploy’ to prevent him from getting re-elected. He made the comments in an interview with Czech Radio on Thursday, adding that he saw a secret ballot as the only logical means of electing a president. Mr Klaus said that he couldn’t rule out that the election would be postponed, but said that he sincerely hoped that this would not be the case. He urged politicians to come to a swift agreement, warning that if they didn’t, the public may well lose patience. At the moment, the president is elected by politicians alone, though there is speculation that the next presidential election may be by direct vote.
The Czech – US treaty on the siting of a radar base, part of the American anti-missile shield, in the Czech Republic, will provide for the system’s cooperation with NATO, Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar said on Thursday, after talks with US officials in Prague. The Czech Republic has been negotiating with the United States on the positioning of the radar station on Czech territory for more than a year; Mr Pojar said he expected the talks to conclude ‘within weeks, rather than months’.