The chairman of the lower house Miloslav Vlček has called a meeting of party leaders ahead of Friday’s presidential elections. The aim of these last minute consultations is to try and reach agreement on the method of voting in what will be a second attempt to elect a new Czech president. A dispute over whether the vote should be public or by secret ballot blocked the election process for close to ten hours last week. The Civic Democrats and the Christian Democrats have said they will push for a traditional secret ballot, blaming last week’s public vote for the undignified scenes that accompanied the election process.
The ruling Civic Democrats have threatened to lodge a criminal complaint against an independent senator who claims the party attempted to bribe him in last week’s presidential election. Independent senator Josef Novotný said he had been approached by a senator from the Civic Democratic Party and offered two million crowns if he backed the party’s nominee Václav Klaus. The Civic Democrats have denied the allegation and said that unless senator Novotný offers proof of his claim or makes public the name of the senator who allegedly tried to bribe him they would press charges.
In the past week seven deputies and senators who voted for incumbent president Václav Klaus in last week’s inconclusive elections are said to have received threats in the mail. A number of them were sent bullets and vulgar SMS messages. The last case was reported on Thursday when unaffiliated senator Karel Barták said he had found gunpowder in the mail and handed it over to the police. The incidents have caused a storm of controversy among lawmakers with members of the ruling and opposition parties accusing each other of dirty deals and provocation.
Presidential candidate Jan Švejnar has rejected rumors that he is considering withdrawing from the race, on the reasoning that with the appearance of a third candidate his chances of beating incumbent Václav Klaus are significantly lower. Mr. Švejnar’s spokeswoman Klára Pospíšilová said the challenger had no intention of backing out ahead of Friday’s election and hinted that whoever was spreading the rumor intended to damage Mr. Švejnar ahead of the vote. The Czech-American economist’s chances now hinge on the Communist Party, which has attached a number of conditions to its support of Mr. Švejnar, nominating its own candidate in the event of these conditions not being met. Observers say that the nomination of a third candidate – Jana Bobošiková – will boost President Klaus’ chances in the elections since the anti-Klaus vote will be split between two candidates.
The results of a poll conducted by the CVVM agency indicate that the majority of Czechs favor direct presidential elections. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they would prefer the president to be elected by the people, 18 percent said the decision-making should remain in the hands of lawmakers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again warned that his country would target missiles at the Czech Republic if it were to host a US tracking radar on its territory. Speaking at a press briefing for foreign journalists President Putin said the governments of the Czech Republic and Poland should think carefully before agreeing to be part of the US missile defense shield because they would be putting their own people at risk. The Russian president, whose term in office ends in May, moreover underlined the fact that repeated polls in both countries indicated that neither Czech nor Polish citizens wanted US missile defense facilities on their territory. Although neither country has as yet made a commitment, both the Czech and Polish governments are engaged in negotiations with Washington on the missile defense project. The two countries parliaments are expected to vote on the matter in the course of this year.
Czech customs officers at Mosnov Airport are reported to have confiscated a consignment of fake Viagra. The package containing 3,000 potency pills arrived from China and is estimated to be worth 1.4 million crowns on the black market. Demand for it is considerable despite the fact that doctors have repeatedly warned the public that drugs acquired on the black market can present a health hazard.
The leadership of the Christian Democratic Party has urged its members to push for a secret ballot in this Friday’s presidential elections. This is a u-turn on the part of the Christian Democrats, who, in the first round of presidential elections last week, pushed for a public vote. The governing Civic Democrats are also for a secret ballot, which is said to favour their candidate for the presidency, Václav Klaus. It is thought that if both the Christian and the Civic Democrats vote in favour of a secret ballot, then they should have enough votes to push this method of election through. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Jiří Čunek, said that he had changed his stance on the way the elections should be conducted because of the ‘undignified character’ of last week’s public vote.