Spidla faces mounting pressure to quit as party head

The Social Democrat leadership is due to meet on Saturday to discuss Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's tenure as party chairman just a week after his government was routed in the European Parliament elections. Many of Mr Spidla's own party officials are openly urging him to step down, and say the longer he hangs on, the greater the chances are the party will force him to quit — and ultimately push him out as prime minister as well. If Mr Spidla does not quit as chairman, he will face a vote of confidence in the Central Executive Committee, the highest party organ between congresses. Prime Minister Spidla called the session for July 11. He also faces the threat of the smallest coalition party, the Freedom Union, quitting after poor election showing last week, and a no-confidence vote planned by the main opposition Civic Democrats.

STEM polling agency: Civic Democrats enjoy 32 percent of voter support.

A poll conducted by the STEM agency suggests that if Czech parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, the right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats would win 32 percent of the vote, followed by the Communists with 17 percent, and the senior Coalition Social Democrats with 14 percent of the vote. The fourth party that would make it to the lower house would be the junior coalition Christian Democrats with 8-percent support.

Havel: US, EU, Japan and South Korea should jointly confront North Korea

The former Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has said that the United States, the European Union, Japan and South Korea should jointly confront the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il to compel him to respect basic human rights. Calling Kim Jong Il the "world's worst totalitarian dictator" for being "responsible for the loss of millions of lives," Mr Havel cited accounts of repression by North Korean refugees that had been verified by modern satellite images. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post newspaper, Mr Havel urged the four democratic powers to take a common position and make it clear to Kim Jong Il that "respect for basic human rights is an integral part of any future discussions with Pyongyang". Last week, the Czech Republic reopened its embassy to North Korea. The Czechoslovak embassy to Pyongyang was closed in the early 1990s.

Registered partnerships given chance by lower house

The lower house of parliament has passed a bill on registered partnerships of same-sex couples in its first reading. The bill, proposed by deputies, will now be sent on to the committee stage, and then be put to a full vote in the lower house. Bills on registered partnerships for homosexuals regularly divide opinion in the lower house irrespective of party affiliations, with the junior government Christian Democrats the only one uniformly opposed. Supporters of the bill argue that public opinion polls have found that most Czechs have no objections to inscribing registered partnerships in the law.

The bill under discussion would, for instance, ensure partners the right to view information on each other's medical condition, and the chance to be treated as next-of-kin as regards inheritance, enjoying the same rights as married heterosexual couple. However, adoption by homosexual couples would remain illegal. Laws on civil unions for gay and lesbian couples are valid in eight European Union states, as well as in Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. Such partnerships are also legal in six provinces of Spain and the city of London. Hungary allows homosexual couples the same rights as common-law unions.


Saturday should be partly cloudy, with rain and daytime temperatures ranging from 15 to 18 degrees Celsius.