The 20th edition of the Forum 2000 conference gets underway in Prague on Sunday evening. The event – whose theme this year is “the courage to take responsibility – begins at the city Prague Crossroads centre with a speech from the Slovak president, Andrej Kiska. Some of the debates over the following three days will focus on the legacy of Václav Havel, who was one of the initiators of Forum 2000 while he was president of the Czech Republic. Guests include the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and Russian chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov.
An event at which a large number of drummers played at Prague’s Bubny train station, from which the Nazis sent Jews to concentration camps, marked the 75th anniversary of the first such transport on Sunday evening. Around 500 percussion instruments were available to visitors to this year’s Drumming for Bubny, which featured well-known Czech drummers including the rock star David Koller. A Memorial of Silence will in the next two years be built at Bubny train station, from which around 50,000 Jews were sent to their deaths. Bubny means drums in Czech.
ANO MP Jaroslava Jermanová says party chief Andrej Babiš’s call to scrap the Senate is not a reaction to the party’s poor showing in the second round of elections to the upper house. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Ms. Jermanová said Mr. Babiš has long believed the Senate is unnecessary. However, it is not a party priority at present, she said. ANO won three seats in the second round despite doing best in the first round and having 14 candidates in contention for upper house mandates. Speaking to the news site Novinky.cz on Saturday after the vote count Mr. Babiš said the Senate was unnecessary, slowed the legislative process, cost CZK 600 million a year and no longer had the power to elect the president.
Petr Pithart, a leading figure in Czech politics in the post-1989 period, says he may run for president. In an interview for iDnes.cz, Mr. Pithart said he was “considering whether to consider” standing for the post in elections in early 2018. He made the comment not long after a well-received speech at a memorial to Václav Havel in which he warned against the country moving away from the European Union. Mr. Pithart, who is 75, was Czech prime minister under the Czechoslovak federation and served as head of the Czech Senate, which he has been a member of since its inception in 1996.
Zlín have lost for the first time this season in Czech soccer’s top flight. The club’s unexpected positive start to their 2016–2017 campaign earned comparisons in the media with Leicester City, who stunned the football world by winning the English Premier League last season. However, Zlín’s 10-game unbeaten streak came to an end on Saturday night when they went down 2:0 to Teplice. Zlín avoided relegation last season by just three points and play at a 6,000-capacity stadium.
The outcome of the second round of Senate elections is set to hit the coffers of the governing Social Democrats and opposition Civic Democrats, after both lost seats in the upper house. The state gives political parties CZK 900,000 a year for each legislator they have and the Social Democrats will lose around CZK 7.5 million annually while the Civic Democrats will be CZK 4 million worse off. By contrast, the Christian Democrats, the big winners in the Senate elections, will get CZK 4 million more a year, while ANO will receive an extra CZK 1 million.
The Christian Democrats were the biggest winners in the second round of
elections to one third of the seats in the Czech Senate, with candidates
with their backing taking nine mandates. The party took five of seven
Senate places in Moravia, its traditional power base.
The leaders of the government coalition, the Social Democrats, did poorly, with only two wins. Well-known Social Democrats such as Zdeněk Škromach and Jan Mládek were defeated, with the latter announcing after Saturday afternoon’s vote count that he would tender his resignation as minister for industry and trade. ANO, the other party in the coalition, took three seats.
The Social Democrats remain the biggest grouping in the Senate while the three government parties together have a constitutional majority (three-fifths of mandates) in the upper house.
The Civic Democrats and the Mayors group took three seats each in the second round of voting on Friday and Saturday, while TOP 09 and the North Bohemians party secured two apiece. The Communist Party did not win any seats.
Turnout was 15.4 percent, the lowest rate since the establishment of the Senate two decades ago.
The Visegrad Four group is fulfilling its mission within the European Union and has proved effective on the issue of refugee quotas, says the Czech president, Miloš Zeman. Speaking on Saturday at the close of a meeting of V4 heads of state in the Polish city of Rzeszów, Mr. Zeman said other EU members were taking the group’s position on board and there was now barely any talk of a quota system agreed last year. The four countries have expressed opposition to the scheme, under which set numbers of refugees are allocated to EU members.