News

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Leaders of two largest parties face off in two-hour televised debate

The chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, and the leader of the country's largest opposition party, the Civic Democrat's Mirek Topolanek, have faced off in a special televised debate. The programme was broadcast live by public broadcaster Czech TV on Sunday. It focused on key issues in this year's election run-up, including the state of health care and health care reforms, corruption, the state of the economy, and foreign policy issues - namely the future of the European Union. The debate comes less than a week before Czechs go to the polls - on June 2nd and 3rd - to decide on the country's next government.

Latest surveys predict different election results

The latest surveys just released have suggested different outcomes in the upcoming election. A poll released by the Factum Invenio agency has suggested that the ruling Social Democrats have surpassed the opposition Civic Democratic Party in opinion polls - by less than one percent (28.5 to 27.8). Regarding the results, the agency said that the election could be won by either party: the race effectively being too close to predict.

By contrast, a poll conducted by the SC&C agency (commissioned by the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes) has suggested a wider margin of difference in favour of the opposition Civic Democrats. According to that survey, the opposition party will get more than 30 percent of the vote, while the Social Democrats' will come in second at 24.2.

Both surveys show just three other parties completing the future make up of the Czech Parliament following the election: the Communists, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens.

Almost two-thirds of populace "not interested" in pre-election campaigns

Almost two thirds of the populace are not interested in the pre-election campaigns leading up to Parliamentary elections next weekend, a survey conducted by the CVVM agency has suggested. According to the poll, only around 40 percent of the public has been drawn into campaign issues, among them university students and older citizens. The least interested are those with basic educations and those between 15 and 29 years of age. 37 percent say they haven't enough information about candidates to Parliament, although they have a better understanding of party programmes. Around 1,000 people were interviewed in the survey conducted at the beginning of May. Two thirds predicted a victory by the opposition Civic Democrats, one third the Social Democrats, while only two percent said elections would be won by the Communists.

Paroubek, Topolanek disagree over whether special committee session should be open to media

The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and the head of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek have disagreed over whether or not a Parliamentary committee's session on Monday should be open to the media. The Committee for Defence and Security will meet to discuss new allegations in the so-called "bio fuel case" - following a statement by the head of the police unit for investigating organised crime. Its head, Jan Kubice, said this week that a campaign was being run to discredit the unit's officers investigating corruption in the recent bio fuel tender. It has been suggested that there might be links between the case and the January murder of businessman Frantisek Mrazek.

The prime minister has called for all proceedings on Monday to be open to be televised, but the Civic Democrats' Mirek Topolanek has disagreed. He says that under such circumstances the police unit head would be unable to disclose classified information.

Foreign Ministry to send to five million crowns in aid to Indonesia

The Foreign Ministry has said that it will send humanitarian aid worth up to five million crowns to Indonesia, hit by a massive earthquake on Saturday. Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar said that the decision was taken by Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, adding that the exact sum and form of aid has yet to be chosen. The earthquake that hit areas on the island of Java on Saturday ranked 6.2 degrees on the Richter scale. More than 4,000 people were killed in the disaster, some 20,000 thousand injured, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Kayaker Stepanka Hilgertova wins opening World Cup race in Athens

Czech kayaker Stepanka Hilgertova has won the opening slalom race on the World Cup circuit. The race was held on the Olympic course in Athens. The 38-year-old racer defeated Slovak kayaker Gabriela Stacherova for the top medal,while another Czech racer, Irena Pavelkova, came third.

Weather

The beginning of the week is likely to see cloudy and drizzling weather with daytime temperatures of around just 14 degrees Celsius.