Presidential candidate Miloš Zeman has got an edge over his rivals in the race for the country’s top post. The results of a poll conducted by the ppm factum agency indicate that the former prime minister would win the first round of direct presidential elections scheduled for this Friday, followed closely by another former head of cabinet Jan Fischer. The poll shows Miloš Zeman in the lead with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Jan Fischer with 20.1 percent. Composer Vladimir Franz has placed third with 11.4 percent, followed by Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg with 11 percent and Social Democrat Senator Jiří Dienstbier with 10.6 percent. Only the two strongest candidates will advance to the second round of elections, to be held a fortnight after the first.
Dozens of local authorities and schools across the country have removed portraits of President Václav Klaus from offices and classrooms in protest against an amnesty Mr Klaus declared earlier this month, the news website idnes.cz reported. The amnesty freed around 7,000 people serving terms for minor offences, and also halted the prosecution of cases which began more than eight years ago, and carried maximum sentences of ten years. The mayor of the eastern community of Želechovice, who initiated the campaign last week, said he was angered by the amnesty, and no longer wanted Mr Klaus’ portrait in his office. Around 100 municipalities and schools have since removed portraits of Václav Klaus whose second and final term as head of state ends in March. The portrait of the president – or monarch in earlier times – is traditionally displayed in Czech classrooms, mayors’ offices and some other public venues.
In related news, some 20 Czech senators may support a complaint to the Constitutional Court over an amnesty declared by President Václav Klaus. Senator Alena Dernerová, who is behind the move, said they wanted to file the complaint by the end of the week, asking the court to abolish parts of the amnesty. The complaint is based on the assumption that the amnesty breached the rights of victims of the respective crimes.
The Czech Republic is on the verge of a flu epidemic, the Health Ministry said on Monday. Some 30 people have been hospitalized with flu over the past seven days, five of whom have died, a spokeswoman for the ministry said. The country’s chief hygiene officer said an epidemic could break out in the coming days. The most common virus strains registered in the Czech Republic in recent days include the swine flu virus A(H1N1) as well as A(H3N2) and B. Around one million people contract flu each year.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas faces a lawsuit over a deal made with three former Civic Democrat MPs who opposed the government’s tax package. Last November, the three MPs quit their seats in the lower house, making it possible for the government legislation to be approved. In return, they received lucrative posts in companies partly owned by the state. The lawsuit for bribery against Mr Nečas and the three former MPs was filed by a collaborator of the anti-corruption group Transparency International; Mr Nečas said the move was absurd.
Czech industrial output decreased in November by 3.9 percent year-on-year, according to data released by the Czech Statistical Office on Monday. After seasonal adjustment, industrial production dropped by 6.2 percent compared to November 2011. That’s the biggest decline in the country’s industrial production since September 2009. Analysts say the fresh data confirm the weak state of the Czech economy which has been in recession for over a year.
The Czech government has approached international banks to gauge their interest in a new emission of government bonds, the Reuters news agency reported on Monday, quoting a London-based market source. It is not clear when the new emission could be put out, the report says. The Czech government last issued bonds in October which sold for nearly 70 billion crowns.
The Czech anti-monopoly watchdog has cancelled a 340-million-crown tender by Prague’s road maintenance authority for greenery upkeep. The tender was only open to firms whose insurance of single loss events exceeded 100 million crowns. However, the anti-monopoly watchdog said the criterion was irrelevant, and could in effect narrow the number of applicants.
A deep sinkhole appeared in the early hours of Monday in the village of Horní Jiřetín, in the north of the Czech Republic. The hole, some six metres wide and eight meters deep, formed above an old shaft, part of a mine founded in the 1870s. The sinkhole caused no damages. The authorities said they would fill the hole with soil; no other measures should be necessary if the earth movement stops, a local official said.
Czech theatre and film actress Jiřina Jirásková died on Monday at the age of 81. A native of Prague, Jiřína Jirásková joined the Na Vinohradech Theatre in the 1950s, and remained there until retirement. She first appeared on the film screen in 1955 and soon became a popular actress thanks to her roles in movies such as Men about Town, I, Distressing God, Hotel for Strangers, and others. Jiřina Jirásková won several awards and in 2006 received the Czech Republic’s Medal of Merit.