News

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President Klaus receives leaders of Christian Democrats and Civic Democrats

As part of a round of new meetings with political party leaders, President Vaclav Klaus has met with Christian Democratic leader, Jan Kasal. The two men met at Prague Castle on Wednesday morning to discuss possibilities of forming a new government. Mr. Kasal told the press that the Christian Democrats are in favor of an agreement that would include the Social Democrats, because this is the only way to avoid depending on the support of the Communist MPs in the lower house. The Christian Democrats are in favor of what they are calling a "rainbow cabinet" that would join the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats, with the Christian Democrats playing a key mediating role between the two largest parties.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Klaus also met with acting Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Mr. Topolanek says that the two men did not discuss who the President will charge with the second attempt to form a viable government. Mr. Topolanek's aim is to find an agreement between parties that would lead the country to early elections. The Civic Democrats' position on early elections has been publicly supported by the Christian Democrats as well as by the Green Party and the Communists. Only the Social Democrats have not yet agreed with this strategy as a way to overcome the political stalemate.

Meanwhile, President Klaus has not expressed his preference in terms of a solution to the political stalemate, but he has indicated that he wants to see a government that will lead the Czech Republic to early elections, and be able to win a vote of confidence in the meantime. Mr. Klaus will continue individual meetings with party leaders until Friday, when he has invited all five parliamentary party leaders to a meeting at Prague Castle.

Milos Zeman says Zdenek Skromach could lead Social Democrats

Former Social Democratic chairman and prime minister, Milos Zeman, thinks that current deputy chairman of the Social Democrats, Zdenek Skromach, would make a fine party leader. Mr. Zeman disclosed his opinion in an interview for Wednesday's edition of the daily Pravo. The former party leader also confirmed that he will not attend the Social Democratic convention at which delegates will elect a new leader. Mr. Zeman also said that negotiations about the formation of a new government are "nearly impossible," and that he is enjoying retired life in Vysocina too much to re-enter politics. Given the current state of affairs, Mr. Zeman remains convinced that a caretaker government is the best solution to the Czech political deadlock. Meanwhile, Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek is facing increasing criticism for his party's defeat in the recent Senate and local elections.

Social Democrats refuse constitutional amendment to allow early elections

The Social Democrats will not support a proposal to dissolve the lower house and allow early elections - a step that would be permitted with a constitutional amendment suggested by Green Party leader, Martin Bursik. Deputy Chairman of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, confirmed his party's position following a Wednesday afternoon meeting between Social Democratic leader Jiri Paroubek, and Green Party leader Martin Bursik. According to Mr. Bursik, the Social Democrats are pushing for the second attempt at government formation to fail, so that they will be charged with the third and final effort. Mr. Sobotka told reporters that the Social Democrats will consider early elections only after the third attempt at government formation is exhausted.

Hybaskova apologizes to Justice Minister

Jana Hybaskova, leader of the European Democrats, a small right wing party, has apologized to Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil for having accused him of corruption without having sufficient proof. The justice minister is said to have accepted her apology. However Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty whom Mrs. Hybaskova also named in the case is pressing charges of slander. Just before the Senate and local elections Mrs. Hybaskova accused the Civic Democratic Party of having asked for a three million crown bribe in a certain transaction - money which was allegedly intended for two Civic Democratic Party ministers and a deputy for that party. Both ministers vehemently denied the charges and Mrs. Hybaskova was later forced to admit she did not have sufficient proof for her accusation and should not have named any names. The police are investigating the case.

Proposal to repatriate Kazak-Czechs approved

The outgoing cabinet of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has approved a proposal by the Interior Ministry which will allow approximately 170 people of Czech origin living in Kazakhstan to move back to the Czech Republic. Mr. Topolanek says that the program is the second part of a repatriation program begun in 1994. The Kazak-Czech families that the Ministry of the Interior intends to invite will join the approximately 650 Czechs from Kazakhstan who relocated back to the Czech Republic in the last years of the 1990s. The Ministry of Interior says that it decided to extend the resettlement invitations because economic and security conditions of ethnic Czechs in Kazakhstan have grown increasingly worse in recent years. The remaining roughly 170 people (about 50 families) comprising the Czech community in Kazakhstan are the descendents of those who left Bohemia in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

11 year-old dies on tracks in Prostejov

An eleven year old girl has died as a result of an accident at a railway crossing in Prostejov, north Moravia. Another girl at the scene suffered serious injuries. Tragedy struck at 2:30pm on Wednesday when the girls ran into the tracks just as a locomotive engine was passing; the train caught one girl, dragging her another 15 meters - she died at the scene. The other child is in critical condition in an Olomouc hospital.

Tomas Berdych through second round at Paris Masters

Czech men's tennis star Tomas Berdych has advanced to the Round of 16 of the Masters tournament in Paris. Berdych fought a tough match against Olivier Rochus of Belgium on Wednesday, finally victorious in three sets with a score of 6:7 (4:7), 6:4, 6:2. Tomas Berdych ended the match on a high, serving his twenty-first ace. Thus far, Berdych will donate 210 Euro of his winnings at the Masters to UNICEF, the charity of his choice. Tomas Berdych, the Paris Masters 2005 champion, is now scheduled to play American Robby Ginepri for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Weather

While daytime temperatures remain at around 10 degrees Celsius, a cold front is expected to see temperatures drop to between 0 and 4 degrees, bringing the season's first snow in lower altitudes.