Voting has ended in the second round of Senate elections. An estimated 28
percent of eligible voters turned out to elect 27 of the country’s 81
With all of the votes counted, the opposition Social Democrats have emerged as the biggest winners. Twenty-three Social Democrat Senators have been elected to the Senate, with the governing Civic Democrats winning in three constituencies and the Communist Party in one.
The leader of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, called the result a ‘brilliant victory’ for his party, which had outstripped his expectations. Mr Paroubek said that he had hoped his party would win in 16 constituencies, but in the end, the result was better than he could have imagined. The leader of the Social Democrats said the victory could open the door to early elections, which he predicted could be held next year.
Meanwhile, the head of the Civic Democrats, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, has said he will need to consider whether to stand for reelection at the party congress in December. Following the results, which slash the Civic Democrats’ majority in the Senate, Mr Topolánek called for a time of reflection within the party. One of Mr Topolánek’s biggest rivals within the Civic Democrats, Prague Mayor Pavel Bém, has urged for his party to call an extraordinary congress earlier than December
The Christian Democrats, who are currently a member of the government coalition, have failed to win a single seat in the Senate - all three of their candidates lost out in the second round to the Social Democrats. This means that the party now has only seven representatives left in the Senate – the lowest number in the party’s history. The head of the Christian Democrats’ senators’ club called for the head of the party, Jiří Čunek, to resign in response to the result.
In light of the Social Democrats recent election success, the head of the party, Jiří Paroubek, has asked his predecessor Miloš Zeman once again to rejoin the country’s largest opposition party. Mr Paroubek purportedly wants Mr Zeman to share in the Social Democrats recent regional and Senate election victories, and is asking the former prime minister in return to lure two rebel Social Democrat MPs back into the fold. For his part, Mr Zeman said on Saturday that he would be interested in rejoining the party, but only on certain conditions. Mr Paroubek has responded that Mr Zeman is in no position to be setting conditions for reentry into the party. Mr Zeman remains a strong influence within the Social Democratic Party despite no longer ranking directly amongst its politicians.
Czech president Václav Klaus has called the American government’s reaction to the current global financial crisis ‘populist and ineffective’. In an interview with the news website aktualne.cz, Mr Klaus also criticized central banks’ and European leaders’ handling of the crisis. The Czech president accused world leaders of ‘failing to see the signs’ pointing towards a looming financial crisis, so immersed were they in the battle against climate change. Mr Klaus says that far from increasing regulation within the banking sector, leaders should now be doing away with the ‘old and bad’ regulations which, he said, lead to the crisis. Mr Klaus, himself an economist, said that he thought the current financial crisis would not end up on the scale of the turmoil felt after WWII, but encouraged ‘Thatcherite’ reforms so as to avert any further crises.
In related news, Vaclav Klaus’s secretary, Ladislav Jakl, has said that the president ‘has no ambition’ to represent and speak on behalf of the European Union during the Czech Republic’s EU presidency which starts on January 1. Mr Jakl told the public broadcaster Czech Television that the president would strive to decentralise the European Union as much as possible during the Czechs’ time at the helm. Mr Jakl said that unless it was a great power like France or Germany leading the EU, in whose hands the European presidency lay had little practical significance. The European media this week has been suggesting that French President Nicolas Sarkozy may want to minimise the Czech Republic’s role during the country’s EU presidency next year.
In an interview with French paper Le Monde on Saturday, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said that he did not agree with the way his country had been portrayed in the European press in the last week, saying that Czechs were no more eurosceptic than any other nation in Europe. Mr Schwarzenberg said that President Klaus may be known abroad for his euroscepticism, but it was not the president, it was the government, which decided upon foreign policy. The Czech foreign minister said he was wary of Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to increase the power of the Eurogroup during the Czech Republic’s EU presidency – saying that any move which split the union up into ‘old Europe’ and ‘New Europe’ could not lead to overall solidarity.
An oil slick approximately 200 metres long and 20 metres wide appeared on a stretch of the Vltava River running through the centre of Prague on Saturday morning. The firefighters sent to clean up the slick said that it had probably been caused by several moored boats leaking petrol. Firefighters tried to absorb the worst of the slick for two hours this morning, before handing the clean-up operation to a specialist firm.
In sport, former Zenit Saint Petersburg coach Vlastimil Petrželka has been admitted to a gambling addiction clinic after losing a total of 1.8 million euros, according to the news website idnes.cz. The 55-year-old Czech coached the Russian champions from 2003 to 2006 before being replaced by Dick Avocaat. His ex-wife told idnes.cz that Petrželka had “found the courage to resolve his problem”, adding that the former Sparta star wanted to return to coaching in the near future.