After the counting of three-quarters of votes in regional elections in the
Czech Republic, the opposition Social Democrats are ahead in 10 of the 13
regions being contested. The Civic Democrats, who head the right-of-centre
Czech government, are so far topping the polls in one region, as are the
Mayors for Liberec Region group and the Communist Party. Prior to the
weekend’s elections, the Social Democrats held power in all 13 regions.
Prague is the only region where voting has not taken place. Voter turnout
reached 35.6 percent.
In terms of national breakdown per party with three-quarters of votes counted, the Social Democrats had received 24.2, the Communists 20.9 percent, the Civic Democrats 11.9 percent, the Christian Democrats 9.8 percent and TOP 09 6.3 percent.
Elections have also been held for one third of the seats in the Czech Senate. The Social Democrats are hoping to make up ground in the upper chamber, where they would enjoy an absolute majority if they capture three more seats. Constituencies in which no candidate receives more than 50 percent will see run-off votes between the two leading candidates next weekend.
The Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, has said the regional elections were a marked success for the Czech Republic’s left-wing parties and a defeat for the right. He told reporters that the results had resulted from necessary government reforms, which have included a raft of austerity measures. Mr. Nečas conceded that the poor showing of his Civic Democrats could also reflect internal divisions within the party.
The great Czech animator Břetislav Pojar died on Friday at the age of 89. In a career stretching back to the late 1940s, Mr. Pojar wrote and directed many short films in the puppet animation and stop motion animation styles. He emigrated to Canada in the 1960s, where his work for the Canadian Film Board won numerous awards. Those prizes included a Best Short Film Award at Cannes in 1972 for Balablok, which satirised armed conflict.
A group of Franciscan monks who were killed by a Prague mob in the 17th century were beatified in a ceremony at the city’s St. Vitus’ Cathedral on Saturday. The beatification – the first to take place in the Prague archdioceses, according to a representative of the Roman Catholic Church – accompanied a mass celebrated by the Vatican-based Cardinal Angelo Amato. Fourteen Franciscans were put to death at a Prague monastery in 1611 after the city’s inhabitants suspected them of collaborating with an invading army. The head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Dominik Duka, said the killings had arisen as the result of a moral crisis in Europe and could therefore serve as a warning today.
A man who set himself on fire on Friday on the steps of the court in the central Bohemian town of Litoměřice has died. The man, who was 57, was transported by helicopter to the burns unit at a hospital in Prague’s Vinohrady district but succumbed to his injuries in the early hours of Saturday, a hospital spokesperson said. A police investigation is underway but no motive for the self-immolation is yet known.
Tomáš Berdych has been beaten by Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of tennis’s Shanghai Masters. The Czech men’s number one lost 3–6 4–6 to the Serb, who has defeated Berdych in 10 of their 11 meetings to date. However, reaching the semi-finals in Shanghai for the first time could help the Czech – who is ranked seventh in the world – earn a berth at the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.
The manager of the Czech national soccer team, Michal Bílek, says he hopes forward Tomáš Peckhart will continue to impress are finally getting his first goal in a 3:1 win over Malta in a World Cup qualifier on Friday night. It was the 14th international appearance by the tall Nuremberg striker, who is 23. Bílek told reporters he believed Peckhart would now hit the net more often, adding that a weight had clearly fallen from the player’s shoulders after his debut strike. Theodor Gebre Selassie and Jan Rezek also scored in Friday’s game, which left the Czechs third in Group B behind Italy and Bulgaria, who they face in Prague on Tuesday.
Polling stations opened across the country at 2 PM on Friday for Czechs to
vote in Senate and regional elections. Voters will choose assemblies in 13
of the country’s 14 regions – with the exception of Prague. Voting is
held in conjunction with elections to a third of the Senate. Polling
stations will close at 10 PM on Friday to reopen the next day between 8 AM
and 2 PM. Some 10 percent of the voters turned up in the course of first
few hours, the news agency ČTK reported.
At present, the opposition Social Democrats head governments in all the regions and look set to maintain much of that advantage. The elections are widely perceived as an indicator of public opinion on the government’s austerity drive.
Czech President Václav Klaus considers the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for the
European Union "a tragic error". Mr Klaus, who first did not
take the news of the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision serisouly, told
reporters later on Friday the Nobel Peace Prize had a meaning when awarded
to an individual for their unique
actions; however, it turned into an "empty award" when handed to
a bureaucratic insititution, the Czech president added.
For his part, the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, welcomed the Nobel Peace Prize for the EU as the right decision. However, Mr Schwarzenberg also said that he would have personally preferred to see the prize go to an individual.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the European Union deserved the award for its role in advancing peace in Europe. According the committee, the EU helped to transform Europe "from a continent of war to a continent of peace".
The police on Friday levelled charges of posing a threat to public safety against another distributor of methanol-laced bootleg liquor. A 54-year-old man from Zlín faces up to 20 years in prison, or even an exceptional sentence of life imprisonment, for distributing the deadly beverage mix. The police had earlier charged two distributors of methanol-laced liquor; in total, 40 people have been charged in the case of methanol poisonings which killed 28 people in the Czech Republic over the last month.