News

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Presidential election could be postponed over disagreement on voting method

Czech lawmakers are due to elect a new president on Friday in a joint session of the two houses of Parliament. President Vaclav Klaus is seeking reelection in the face of a challenge from Czech-American economics professor Jan Svejnar. The vote starts at 10 am with speeches by both presidential candidates, but risks being derailed by a disagreement between the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies and the 81-strong Senate over whether the vote should be secret or public. The Senate, dominated by the ruling Civic Democrats, wants a secret ballot while the Chamber of Deputies favours a public vote. The Czech Constitution does not specify how the vote should be held. Failure to agree on this important aspect could see the presidential election postponed indefinitely until a solution is found.

In related news, President Klaus has reacted to the stand-off between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate by calling it a ‘ploy’ to prevent him from getting re-elected. He made the comments in an interview with Czech Radio on Thursday, adding that he saw a secret ballot as the only logical means of electing a president. Mr Klaus said that he couldn’t rule out that the election would be postponed, but said that he sincerely hoped that this would not be the case. He urged politicians to come to a swift agreement, warning that if they didn’t, the public may well lose patience. At the moment, the president is elected by politicians alone, though there is speculation that the next presidential election may be by direct vote.

Czech – US treaty on radar will include NATO

The Czech – US treaty on the siting of a radar base, part of the American anti-missile shield, in the Czech Republic, will provide for the system’s cooperation with NATO, Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar said on Thursday, after talks with US officials in Prague. The Czech Republic has been negotiating with the United States on the positioning of the radar station on Czech territory for more than a year; Mr Pojar said he expected the talks to conclude ‘within weeks, rather than months’.

Czech National Bank raises interest rate

The Czech National Bank raised the base interest rate on Thursday by a quarter of a percentage point to 3.75 percent, the highest value since April 2002. The move was caused by inflation which reached 6.5 percent in January; the Bank expects it will keep on rising. Economists say however that the January rise in inflation was a single event and that the inflation should drop to three to four percent during the year. The current rise in inflation has been caused by the increase in the prices of food, oil and other energies as well as rents. Despite the rise, the Czech interest rate is currently the lowest in the European Union.

In related news, the Czech National Bank lowered its estimate of Czech economy growth in 2008 to 4.1 percent. The Bank’s estimate is more pessimistic than that by the Czech Finance Ministry which had previously estimated that the Czech economy will only grow by 4.7 percent.

Czech couple charged over attempted USD 3.5 billion fraud

Police in South Bohemia are investigating a case of alleged attempted fraud amounting to USD 3.5 billion. A married couple from Písek allegedly sought a guarantee from a Swiss bank on the basis of a certificate “issued” by a non-existent financial institute in the US. However, the bank suspected the documents were fake and halted the whole process before any contract was signed. The couple, who have not been remanded in custody, said they needed the loan to finance the establishment of an airline.

Former environment minister Ivan Dejmal dies at age 61

Ivan Dejmal, former Czech environment minister and deputy head of the newly-established Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, died late on Wednesday, at the age of 61. Dejmal was environment minister from 1991-1992 pushing through a crucial law on nature and landscape protection. In the 1970s Dejmal was persecuted by the communist secret police. He was twice imprisoned for allegedly “undermining the Czechoslovak communist state” and for his frequent contacts with the dissident community. He spent four years in prison.

IUA in support of Jan Kaplicky

The International Union of Architects has once again upheld the results of an international competition for the new National Library building in Prague and thus definitively refuted all doubts about its regularity, according to National Library director Vlastimil Jezek. The winning design, submitted by the Czech-born British architect Jan Kaplicky, has divided the public as well as artists and politicians. Its opponents have tried to prevent its construction by claiming that Kaplicky had not fully met the stipulated conditions. Under pressure Kaplicky went so far as to change the colour-scheme of the building.

Prague will re-erect monument to President Woodrow Wilson

A monument to the US President Woodrow Wilson will be re-erected in Prague, a City Hall official said on Thursday after a meeting with a representative of the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. Five sites have been chosen where the memorial might be positioned. The original monument was built in 1928 in front of Prague’s main train station which also bore Mr Wilson’s name, but was destroyed by the Nazis after the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Woodrow Wilson, who was the US president during the First World War, defended Central European nations’ right to self-determination which was instrumental in the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918.

Police consider repainting their cars

The Czech police are considering changing the colour scheme of their vehicles. Instead of the current white with a green stripe, police cars could be painted in silver metallic with blue lining. The police say the change could happen in autumn this year as part of a rebranding campaign; cars painted in silver metallic would be also easier to spot on the road and used police car with metallic finish would sell better.

Two Czechs rescued from Slovak avalanche

Two Czechs who were trapped under an avalanche in the High Tatras mountains in Slovakia on Thursday have been rescued. The accident happened when a group of Czech tourists was hiking in a poorly accessible part of the mountains; after the avalanche hit them, one of the men was able to get to the surface and called the mountain rescue service.

World Cup event in cross country skiing in Liberec will take place despite lack of snow

A World Cup event in cross country skiing that is to be held in Liberec, North Bohemia, over next weekend, will take place despite a lack of snow. The event’s organizing committee decided on Thursday that at least some of the planned races will take place; the organizers will announce on Monday which disciplines will be held and which will be cancelled.

Weather

The coming days are expected to be partly cloudy to overcast with day temperatures between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius.