In this week's edition: the Czech election system, this year's summer school of Czech in Dobruska, a response to our programme on the Czech 1920s' racing driver Eliska Junkova. Listeners quoted: Rabisankar Bosu, Miguel Osers, Roz Brown and Colin Rose.

Czech Parliament
Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague's weekly programme answering your questions.

In his email, Mr Rabisankar Bosu from West Bengal, India, has sent us three questions all at once. He wants to learn more about the election system in the Czech Republic and I must say his questions are well timed as there are regional and Senate elections coming up in a few weeks' time. Mr Bosu asks:

"How often do general elections take place in the Czech Republic? What is the minimum percentage of vote required for a political party in the Czech Republic to be represented in parliament? And finally, who bears the expenses of the election campaigns?"

The Czech constitution says that general elections, or elections to the lower house of the Czech parliament, follow the rules of the proportional representation system. They are held every four years unless a government steps down and early elections are called. The country is divided into 14 constituencies. All parties that gain more than five percent of votes get a proportion of seats in the lower house. If two parties run as a coalition, they need at least ten percent of votes, a three-party coalition has to have 15 percent etc.

Elections to the upper house of parliament, the Senate, are run as first-past-the-post elections. A senator is elected in each of 81 constituencies and the election has two rounds. If a candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, he or she is elected Senator. Otherwise, the two candidates with the most votes go on to the second round. A simple majority is enough in the second round. Every two years, one third of the Senate is replaced in new elections. The costs of election campaigns are covered by the parties themselves. But during the campaign parties and coalitions are given free air time on public service TV and radio.

Summer school in Dobruska
Now onto something lighter. A listener in Venezuela, Miguel Osers, was happy to hear our report on the summer school of the Czech language in the town of Dobruska, which he himself had attended the previous summer.

"I visited your website and was glad to see there the photos I myself chose last year. There are more photos at I am from Venezuela and I was last year on the 3rd level of the courses at Dobruska. I liked it very much and I am trying to practice here with my parents and in reunions at the embassy. I made a lot of pictures last year and I saw that in your article there is a picture (baking knedliky) that is from last year. It would be nice if you could mention the site so other students for next year have some reference as to what to expect there. I would also like to invite you to visit the site where we are constantly posting information about the activities of the Czech people in Venezuela."

I have checked out the website of the Venezuelan-Czech Association and was very happy to find a link to Radio Prague there.

And finally, Roz Brown and Colin Rose from Yorkshire in England sent us a comment concerning our latest Czechs in History programme, featuring the amazing Eliska Junkova, a female racing driver from the 1920s.

"Eliska Junkova spoke English and French, so that was useful driving for Bugatti. The man was born Italian but the cars were thoroughly French. Hence nearly always painted blue, the French racing colours. Not Italian as you said."

Well, it seems that the life stories of 20th century car constructors are very complicated. For example Ferdinand Porsche, about whom we reported last year, was an Austrian born in North Bohemia, who then lived in Germany and was imprisoned in France. Ettore Bugatti was born in Italy, established his first factory in Germany, an area which became French territory after the Second World War. So the cars were Italian-designed but French made. An Italian entrepreneur bought the rights to the Bugatti mark after Ettore Bugatti's death in 1947 and finally, Volkswagen bought the name in the late 1990s. And as far as the colour of the cars is concerned, Eliska raced in the yellow and black.

And staying with the topic of European countries and nationalities, it's time for the quiz question for the month of October.

"The name of one traditional Czech dance is in fact a contradiction. The name suggests that the dance comes from another Central European country. Which dance is it?"

As usual, you have till the end of October to send in your answers to Radio Prague, English Section, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic or by email to [email protected].