News Monday, NOVEMBER 13th, 2000

By Daniela Lazarova

Elections – outcome

The Czech Republic's first regional elections and polls to a third of the Senate have been marked by an exceptionally low voter turnout. Less than 40% of eligible voters came to cast their ballot in Sundays election, reflecting scepticism and fear of increased bureaucracy.

In the elections to regional government posts the Civic Democrats have proved themselves to be the strongest political party in the land. Meanwhile, the governing Social Democrats suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Communists who rank second in many regions. The Civic Democrats, who have described the communists unexpected success as "alarming" have called on the other parties to help create "rainbow coalitions" in the regions to keep communists out of government.

As regards the outcome of elections to a third of the Senate, only one candidate has received the necessary majority to secure a seat in the Senate in the first round. He is former foreign minister Josef Zieleniec, representing the right of Centre Four Party Coalition. The other candidates face a run off scheduled for next Sunday. At this point it is obvious that the second round of elections in 27 constituencies will be a contest between the Civic Democrats and the right of Centre Four Party Coalition. Although the Social Democrats can hope to win a maximum of 5 seats in the second round of Senate elections the strong standing of the Civic Democratic Party may help the opposition allies to achieve the desired 60% majority in the Upper House which would enable them to push through Constitutional reform. In order to achieve that they would need to win 21 out of 27 seats.

Czechs unhappy over EU report; Brussels says it's fair

Amidst a clamor of protest from Prague, the European Commission says its progress report on the Czech Republic was " objective and fair". Officials in Brussels said they were amazed by the anger last week's progress report evoked among both politicians and the media in the Czech Republic. The EU's Expansion Commissioner Gunter Verheugen and the EU's General Director for expansion Enek Landaburu have both attempted to reassure Prague that it was doing well, asking officials not to overestimate the ranking order established by the commission. "It was a small blemish on an otherwise very positive and encouraging report and I cannot understand why Czech officials have chosen to highlight it rather than focus on the progress achieved" one EU official told the CTK news agency.

The Czech Republic was severely disappointed to find itself placed in the third group of candidate states for EU admission, that is, a group below Poland, Hungary and Estonia. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has called the report "unfair" , as have a number of other leading Czech politicians.

Greek President to visit Czech Republic

The Greek President Konstantinos Stefanopulos is due to arrive in Prague on Monday for a three day state visit to the Czech Republic. The visit takes place at the invitation of President Havel and President Stefanopulos is likewise scheduled to meet with leading government and parliament figures. The CTK news agency says that the past decade has brought a renaissance in Czech-Greek relations, with intensified activity in foreign policy and trade.

Finally, a quick look at the weather:

Monday is expected to bring morning fog and drizzle in some parts of the country but once that clears up we can look forward to partly cloudy skies, some sunshine and significantly higher day temperatures – between 10 and 14 degs C.