Polling booths have closed for the second and final day of voting for the European Parliamentary elections. Polling stations closed at 2 PM local time on Saturday. Early reports have suggested about a quarter of citizens cast their votes. That would be lower than the 28.3 percent turnout in 2004. Although voting ends on Saturday, the count will not start until 10 PM on Sunday to coincide with the rest of the 27-member EU. Representatives of 32 political groups are seeking to fill 22 Czech vacancies in the European Parliament. The turbulent Czech campaign is seen as an important indicator of political strength ahead of parliamentary elections in October.
In related news, Czech President Václav Klaus cast his European Parliament election vote on Saturday in a Prague suburb. He said his departure from the rightwing Civic Democrats late last year made his choice more difficult but refused to say whom he backed. The President said he hoped the vote would result in a European Parliament that was more sensible and more significant than it had proved in the past. Mr Klaus – a well-known eurosceptic and opponent of the EU’s reforming Lisbon Treaty - added that the vote could help decide the future shape of Europe. The President in previous comments described the Europe-wide vote as a waste of time.
The Czech auto industry’s showcase event of the year – the Brno Auto Show – opened its doors to the public on Saturday. The show is a reflection of the sector’s straightened circumstances with some past brand names absent. Those present have taken a different tack seeking to appeal more to the public than burnishing their brand names. Figures released by the Czech Auto Association on Friday showed auto producers and suppliers suffered their first drop in turnover for 14 years last year.
The leader of the main leftwing Czech party, the Social Democrats, has hit back at suggestions at accusations a Socialist Conspiracy was behind the publications of compromising photos of former rightwing prime minister Mirek Topolánek. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said in comments to Czech papers on Saturday that the accusations by Mr Topolánek were a demonstration of his intellectual exhaustion. Mr Topolánek admitted Friday that he appears in one of the photos taken at the summer home of the Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi last year. The picture shows a naked man with a blurred face and a white wristband of the kind Mr Topolánek was wearing at the time. The Civic Democrat leader said however that the photograph had been tampered with. He followed up with the charge that European Socialists were behind the publication of the photos in Spanish daily El Pais which coincided with the first day of elections to the European Parliament.
An official from the south-eastern city of Jihlava banned an extremist right-wing demonstration soon after started on Saturday. The event - attended by around 150 right-wing extremists - was billed as a march in memory of victims of WWII. Monitoring of the event by the police and extremism as well as reports about it on the Internet convinced the official it had a different character. Experts said invitations to the event used slogans which echoed those of the Nazi SS and reports said it was attended by a known Austrian neo-Nazis and SS veteran. Around 250 people had gathered to protest the march. Czech town halls have faced problems in the past banning neo-Nazi marches, sometimes stemming from their own inability to follow the correct procedures.
A team of Czech scientists have discovered a substance that they say slows ageing. Scientists from the Czech Academy of Sciences and Palacký University in Olomouc told reporters on Friday that the new drug was based on vegetable hormones. The substance is said to be effective against rough skin, wrinkles and pigmentation disorders and also heals erysipelas and acne. Both institutions together with the US cosmetics firm Senetek PLC have applied for patent protection. The company will produce the drug under a licence agreement in the United States; in the Czech Republic, the new drug should be available within a year
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout and his Austrian counterpart Martin Spindelegger agreed in Vienna on Friday that the Czech Republic and Austria are ready to cooperate in diplomatic and consular services. In countries with only the Czech or Austrian embassy, citizens of the other country should be able to use the services of that embassy. The Czech and Austrian foreign ministers also talked about the Lisbon treaty, the Beneš decrees and the issue of the Temelín nuclear power plant. They agreed that such meetings should be held every six months; the next one is scheduled for September.
The Czech national football team beat Malta 1:0 in a friendly game in Jablonec on Friday. It was the Czech squad’s first match under the new coach František Straka who was appointed last month. The new manager selected many newcomers into the team, including both goalkeepers. The Czechs were better throughout much of the game but the Maltese had several good opportunities as well. Tomáš Necid, of CSKA Moscow, scored the winning goal in the 79th minute. It’s not clear whether the new coach will be kept on for the remainder of the World Cup qualifiers.
Czech tennis player Lukaš Dlouhý won a French Open Mens’ Doubles title on Saturday. The 29-year-old Czech was partnered by Indian Leander Paes. They beat South African Wesley Moodie and Belgian Dick Norman 3:6, 6:3, 6:2 in the final. Dlouhý and Paes already beat the top seeds in the semi-finals. It is not the first French Open final for the Czech. He reached the doubles final in 2007 with countryman Pavel Vízner but lost.
Czechs began voting in the election to the European Parliament on Friday, the first of two days of the polls are held in the Czech Republic. Fifteen thousand polling stations around the country are open from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. Thirty-two parties are fielding candidates for the Czech Republic’s 22 seats at the European Parliament. The leaders of the two strongest parties, Mirek Topolánek and Jiří Paroubek, as well as former president Václav Havel have already cast their ballots. The current president Václav Klaus is going to vote on Saturday. The counting of votes begins at 10 p.m. on Sunday, after the final polls have closed elsewhere in Europe. In the last European elections in 2004 turnout in the Czech Republic was 28 percent; some forecasters expect a slightly higher turnout this time.