News of Radio Prague

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Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek elected chairman of lower house

Social Democrat candidate Lubomir Zaoralek has been elected as chairman of the Czech lower house in a second round of parliament voting: the Elections Committee confirmed the result shortly after a secret ballot Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day, in a first round of voting, Mr Zaoralek failed to clinch the position by receiving just 99 out of the minimum 101 ballots required; his opponent Vaclav Klaus of the Civic Democrats received 76. In the second round Mr Klaus lost two votes to Mr Zaoralek, which were enough for the Social Democrat to secure the chairmanship. Mr Zaoralek's election to the head of parliament was the first test of solidarity for members of the proposed coalition government between the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Freedom-Union-DEU. The new Czech cabinet is to be officially appointed on Monday.

Only two candidates out of six have prevailed in parliament deputy leader bids

And in related news the new parliament also passed a proposal Thursday allowing for six new parliament deputy chairmen. Six names were put forward by the parties Thursday afternoon: two representatives for the Social Democrats, two for the Civic Democrats and one each for the Freedom Union-DEU and the Communist Party. However, only two of the candidates prevailed: in secret ballots Christian Democrat Jan Kasal got 115 votes while Social Democrat candidate Jitka Kupcova got 142. The other candidates did not get the mandatory 101 votes with Freedom Union's Hana Marvanova coming up short with 95, while the Communist's Vojtech Filip got the least support, with just 48 votes. Proceedings have been postponed till later Thursday evening, when the lower house should vote again to try and fill the four remaining positions in a second round. There is speculation, however, that the proceedings could be postponed as late as next Tuesday, which would postpone the entire process of appointing the new government.

Jan Kavan admits filling role in parliament may prove difficult

Out-going Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, has admitted it may prove difficult for him time-wise to combine both his roles as a member of Czech parliament, and as president of the 57th UN General Assembly. Mr Kavan was recently appointed as president of the UN assembly becoming the first Czech ever to hold the prestigious post, but he declined to give up his post as parliament member. In an interview with Czech Radio Thursday Mr Kavan indicated it would be necessary for his party, the Social Democrats, to negotiate with the two other parties in the new governing coalition, as well as with the leaders of the other parties in parliament, to secure the 101 vote majority needed to pass government bills in case of his absence. Mr Kavan added, however, that it was usually possible to prepare for important ballots in advance. He did admit that the most difficult period might prove to be the time-span between September and December of this year, a period when both the UN assembly will be in session, and when the Czech government will put forward the state budget proposal for 2003.

Crown strengthens - Czech National Bank prepared to intervene

The Czech National Bank on Thursday announced it was prepared to use its monetary instruments to weaken the Czech currency which has for weeks been strengthening to record highs. The central bank says the overly strong crown endangers Czech economic development. On Wednesday the crown broke a psychological barrier of 29 crowns per euro. Dealers say the strengthening of the currency has been caused by large purchases of crowns by clients rather than by favourable inflation figures for June. In reaction to the central bank's announcement the currency has weakened to 29.19 crowns per euro.

Rusnok: privatisation of CEZ not order of the day

Out-going Finance Minister and Trade and Industry Minister- to- be Jiri Rusnok has indicated that the privatisation of the Czech Republic's energy sector is not the order of the day in the Czech Republic, at least, not yet. Mr Rusnok said on Thursday that energy sector policies had to be analysed and redesigned before privatisation of the Czech Republic's power utility CEZ, which runs the Temelin nuclear power plant, could be considered. Rusnok said that analysis would be organised by the Trade and Industry Ministry, relying on experts from both commercial and analytical circles, and said the new energy policy would take nine months to put together. Mr Rusnok added that the new policy would be guided by a model merging CEZ with eight regional distributors, in line with a contract signed by the utility and the National Property Fund two weeks ago, promising to buy up state-owned distributor stakes at a cost of 32 billion crowns.

Fire-fighters wrestle blaze in textile factory

Fire-fighters in Slezan near Uherske Hradiste, have been wrestling with a blaze in a local textile factory since two o'clock this afternoon, a battle involving ten professional as well as voluntary units. Chief fire-fighter Stanislav Stanek said that no one had been hurt in the fire, which has been raging in operational and warehouse facilities; however, Stanek said that damages were being estimated at 37 million crowns.

Czech specialists may influence field of astronauts chosen to visit Mars

Specialists at the Czech Army's Centre for Stress Research may very well influence the field of astronauts that will eventually be chosen to visit the planet Mars. For several years now Czech specialists have been taking part in an international research project involving the Russian space agency, the European space agency ESA, NASA, and a team of Japanese scientists, to help determine ideal candidates for the long journey to the red planet. The Czech centre, which concentrates on the human factor and social relationships and potential break-downs in confined spaces, analysed data from an experiment at the Moscow Institute of Biomedicine in 1998 and 1999. Three subjects spent 256 days in a space capsule mock-up, monitored by video cameras. The Czech team created a sociological map of the team, monitoring, as well as predicting, critical reactions in various circumstances. The only thing missing for those in the study: a condition of weightlessness in zero gravity.

Weather

Thursday evening should see partly cloudy skies with a possibility of showers. Temperatures will drop to around 15 degrees Celsius. Expect cloudiness to continue of Friday with possible rain and temperatures reaching highs between 24 and 28 degrees.