In the first round of Senate voting, the Social Democrats, who were defending 10 seats, are certain to be a shrunken force in a new look Senate where they have previously been the dominant party. They are likely to have candidates in the run off second round of Senate voting,pitting the two top scoring candidates from the first round, in just eight seats. That was the state of play with 99.9 percent of the count being completed at 7.50 PM. ANO was set to have candidates in 14 contests for Senate seats and the Christian Democrats in eight. Renewed voting takes place on Friday and Saturday. Given the shape of the run-off contests, it is already clear that the current government coalition will, however, still retain its majority in the upper house of parliament, the Senate. The Senate has the power to block and amend government legislation although the lower house can re-asset its position in a fresh vote.
The ANO party of millionaire businessman Andrej Babiš triumphed in regional elections, winning most votes and seats in nine of the 13 areas being contested. The Social Democrats scored highest in the Vysočina and South Bohemia regions with the Christian Democrats on top in the Zlin region and the movement Mayors for the Liberec Region polling best in that part of north Bohemia. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia was beaten by ANO into second place in the Ustí region. The outcome of voting which took place on Friday and Saturday will be a blow for the biggest government party, the Social Democrats, headed by prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka. They had previously dominated nearly all regional assemblies across the country with leading roles in 12 out of 13 regions and regional governors, or hejtmen, in 11 of them. Sobotka said as the results came in that it was clear that after eight years of Social Democratic dominance at regional level people were looking for a change and his party had to find new policies to win broader support in the future. Overall, ANO landed around 21 percent of all the votes nationwide in the regional contests pushing the Social Democrats, with just over 15 percent, into second place. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia gained around 11 percent support, the Civic Democrats just short of 10 percent, and Christian Democrats around 6.5 percent. In spite of turning out the winner, ANO is not guaranteed to dominate the regional assemblies with that to be decided by coalition negotiations.
The Czech Under-21 football team has booked its place for the European Championships being hosted by Poland next year. The Czechs beat Moldova 4:1 at home on Friday night. Their place in the finals was secured after Belgium lost 3:0 against Montenegro. That means that while other teams have games in hand the Czechs cannot be overtaken. Czech prospects had been dented after a defeat last month against Belgium.
Police have called for criminal charges to be pressed against five people in connection with a multi-million crown fraud over IT contracts at state-owned forestry company, Lesy ČR. They include the head of IT services at the company. The five are estimated by police to have charged almost 300 million crowns (around 32 million euros) for fictive contracts. Police say payment was made to a company in Britain for the services with the cash then sent back to their accounts in the Czech Republic. Public prosecutors should decide what precise charges should be formulated by the end of the year.
In football, Czech and Sparta Prague midfielder Martin Frýdek has suffered a knee injury during training with the national squad which now threatens to leave him sidelined for the rest of the season. The injury was sustained Tuesday with the latest update and prospects on him playing delivered on Friday. The 24-year-old already underwent an operation on Wednesday. Frýdek’s injury increases the ranks of sidelined Sparta players which already includes Ondřej Zahustel, Josef Šural, Costa, Lukáš Vácha and Tomáš Rosický.
The Czech national football team face Germany at Hamburg in their second world cup group C qualifier on Saturday night. Czech trainer Karel Jarolím has urged his players before the match to tighten up their performance in defence against the potent German attack. But he has also warned them not to be too much in awe of their opponents and make the most of any attacking opportunities offered. The last Czech-German confrontation on German soil two years ago resulted in a surprise 3:0 win for the visitors. The Czechs drew their qualification group opener against Northern Ireland without finding the net. Germany are the reigning world champions.
Czechs continue voting Saturday in the second day of elections for seats to a third of the upper house, the Senate, and all the regional assemblies outside the capital Prague. Polling booths opened at 8 AM and are due to close at 2PM with the first results expected to be declared during the evening. Around 20 percent of voters are estimated to have voted on the first day. A second round of Senate elections will take place on the following Friday and Saturday pitting the two best placed candidates against each other in seats where no-one won more than 50 percent of support. The elections are seen as a major test whether the ANO party can make a breakthrough in the Senate and at the regional level. The results are likely to be seen as a pointer for general elections to the lower house in a year.
Czech president Miloš Zeman has warned that if the US involvement in Syria ends in fiasco it will only have itself to blame. In an interview published Friday, Zeman said that Washington had not been invited to involve itself in the country by any Syrian legal authority. He added that there is no peaceful opposition in Syria, only Islamic groups. In contrast, Russian intervention followed an invitation from the Syrian government, he added. Islamic groups were also responsible for most of the war crimes in Syria, Zeman said. The latest comments are likely to be grouped with a long list of broadly pro-Russian and critical US comments from the Czech head of state in recent years.
Former Czech ambassador to Germany, Rudolf Jindrák, will head the Czech president’s foreign policy team in Prague Castle, president Miloš Zeman confirmed on Friday. Jindrák has been earmarked to replace Hynek Kmoníček in the post with the later due to become ambassador to the United States in Washington. Before his Berlin posting, Jindrák was ambassador in Vienna and Budapest and previously served as a deputy minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has recently servedas a foreign policy advisor to prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
The association representing local arms producers has criticized the Czech Ministry of Defence for insufficient support for their companies. They say the proportion of ministry arms and equipment orders going to local companies is around a third of the total of spending. That compares with a total of around 90 percent in neighbouring Poland. The local producers say that they can hardly hope to land export orders if they do not first win orders from the ministry.