Voting is underway in the second round of elections to the Senate, which will replace one third of the 81 members of Parliament’s upper house. In each constituency voters are choosing between the two candidates who gained the highest number of votes in the first round of elections held last week. Radek Sušil an independent candidate running for the opposition Social Democrats in the district of Karviná, north Moravia, was the only candidate to secure a seat in the first round, winning over 53 percent of the vote. Overall, the opposition Social Democrats had a strong lead in the first round of the elections with all but one of their candidates progressing to the second round. The ruling Civic Democrats have 20 candidates in the running. The second round of the Senate elections, which will conclude on Saturday, might see the ruling Civic Democrats lose their narrow majority in the Czech Parliament’s upper house.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has cancelled his visit to the United States, planned for next week, due to political turmoil within his own party, the Civic Democrats. Mr Topolánek, who was to meet with US President George W. Bush during his visit, has come under pressure following his party’s crushing defeat in regional elections last weekend. In an attempt to get the situation in his party under control, Mr Topolánek invited one of his rivals, Petr Bendl, one of the former regional governors voted out of office last week, to join the cabinet. However Mr. Bendl declined the offer. The Prime Minister also criticized President Václav Klaus, the founder of the Civic Democrats and the party’s honorary chairman, for interfering in party politics, after the president publicly backed Mr Topolánek’s critics. Mr Topolánek will defend his position as party leader at the Civic Democrat congress due to take place in December.
Deputy PM Alexandr Vondra and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on Friday that the Eurogroup should remain informal. At their meeting on the side of the EU-Asia summit in Beijing, both politicians agreed that “no political invasion” of the Eurogroup was possible. The Eurogroup was set up as an informal platform to facilitate communication between finance ministers of EU member states that use the euro. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday that the Eurogroup’s influence within the EU should be reinforced; this could downplay the role of the Czech Republic during its upcoming EU presidency.
A court in Brno sentenced several people to years in prison on Friday in a shocking case of child abuse. Klára Mauerová, the mother of two boys abused and tortured in an attempt to alter their personalities and make them docile, was sentenced to nine years; her sister and the boys’ aunt Kateřina, received a 10-year jail sentence. Barbora Škrlová, a 33-year-old family friend who posed as a 13-year-old, got five years. Three more persons, who participated in the bizarre case, were also given prison sentences. The abuse was discovered 18 months ago in the town of Kuřim, near Brno in Moravia. While the court had enough evidence of severe child abuse, the motive remains unclear.
Deputy PM and Regional Development Minister Jiří Čunek told reporters on Friday that up to 14 billion crowns, or more than 700 million US dollars, of government’s money should be used to improve Romany housing conditions within the next 15 years. The funds should be used within a broader scheme designed by Mr Čunek and his team to tackle the issue of deteriorating Romany living conditions in the country, and to “bring the Roma to a normal way of life”. The scheme, which was presented earlier this year, was criticized by some Romany organizations for planning to divide the Roma into three groups according to their social status.
Twenty packs of candy tainted with toxic melamine were sold in the Czech Republic, the State Agricultural and Food Inspections announced on Friday. The candy was of Chinese origin and was sold under the name White Rabbit. It was distributed throughout Europe by a Dutch company before an EU protective measure was put into effect. Only 20 packs of the candy were sold in the Czech Republic; no more White Rabbit candies are currently available on the Czech market.
Forty-one percent of Czechs consider the 1950s communist show-trials to be the historical event they should most ashamed of, according a poll carried out by the STEM agency. Another 17 percent of Czechs believe that the most shameful event in the country’s history was the country’s surrender to Nazi Germany in 1938. The poll also reveals that more people (14 percent) are ashamed of the developments that took place after the fall of communism in 1989 than of those that occurred after the communist takeover of 1948 (13 percent). On the other hand, most Czechs believe that they behaved the bravest during the Nazi occupation of the Czech lands between 1939 and 1945.
Shares at the Prague stock exchanged plunged lowest since the country’s EU entry. On Friday, the main PX index dropped by 11.77 percent to 751.3 points, accounting for the second highest daily drop since the opening of the bourse in 1993. The PX index has lost more than 60 percent since it peaked in October last year.
The 11th International Documentary Film Festival begins in Jihlava on Friday. This year, the Festival will offer about 260 documentaries, including 17 Czech documentary films competing in the Czech Joy section. The festival will also feature René, a film by Helena Třeštíková, which won the European Film Academy Award for the best European documentary film for 2008. Among the Festival’s guests is American filmmaker Frederick Wiseman who will present a profile of his work.
A party rival says he turned down a place in Prime Minister Mirek
Topolánek’s cabinet. Petr Bendl told reporters on Thursday that the
embattled Civic Democrat chairman had offered him a ministerial position,
though he declined to say which it was. For his part, the prime minister
said he would deal with such matters after this weekend’s second round
Senate elections. Mr Bendl was one of 12 Civic Democrat regional governors
who were voted out of office when the party suffered a whitewash in
elections last weekend. He has been openly critical of the party’s
and has been seen in public with other senior Civic Democrats evidently
opposed to Mr Topolánek.
Prime Minister Topolánek is under great pressure following last weekend’s election debacle. His shaky coalition survived a vote of no-confidence on Wednesday, though with a leadership contest coming up in December there has been speculation about his future.