News of Radio Prague

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Polls open in first round of Senate elections

Senate elections that could end up testing the ruling coalition's slim majority in the upper chamber have gotten underway: polls opened at two o'clock Friday. The first round of voting takes place this Friday and Saturday, with the second round scheduled for November 1st and 2nd. In all a third of the 81 senatorial seats are being decided in districts from around the country in what is a two-year rotating system. 168 candidates are taking part. So far polls have suggested that as much as fifty percent of eligible voters may cast their votes. The ruling coalition must secure 16 of 41 seats it currently holds if it hopes to maintain at least a one-vote majority in the Senate, but both the leading opposition Civic Democrats and the Communist party are seen as potentially difficult contenders.

Case against Strougal shelved

The public prosecutor's office has finished reviewing the file of Lubomir Strougal, a former interior minister as well as prime minister in communist Czechoslovakia, who was acquitted of charges of abuse of power earlier this year. The result: the prosecutor's office found that the court's judging of Mr Strougal's case was in order, and that it was impossible to file a protest or appeal against the decision. The office's conclusion closes the case against the former communist official once and for all; had the prosecutor's office found differently, the Supreme Court would have had to step in to investigate the circumstances behind Mr Strougal's acquittal.

Three officers cleared of wrong-doing in connection with homeless man's death

A court in southern Bohemia has cleared three police officers of any responsibility in connection with the death of a homeless man in December last year. The man died from exposure after the officers drove him to the outskirts of town at night then left; in spite of this, the court was unable to prove any wrong-doing on the part of the police, or to find any evidence that the officers had abandoned the homeless man in a life-threatening situation.

Czech and Slovak ministers express caution over French-German agreement

The Foreign ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia have expressed caution to a French-German agreement made public in Brussels Thursday as a solution to the debate over farm subsidies tied to the reform of the E.U.'s Common Agricultural Policy; the agreement calls for a phase-in of farm subsidies after enlargement in 2004 and a subsidy freeze beginning in 2007aimed at settling agriculture issues with European Union candidate countries. Following talks in Prague Friday between Czech foreign minister Cyril Svoboda with Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan, the Czech foreign minister told the CTK news agency that the latest agreement appeared to be "a basis for further negotiation" and a possible step toward resolution. Mr Svoboda said both he and Mr Kukan would wait for more information before taking a position. In recent days, talks on farm policy reform have strained relations between the E.U. and the 10 main candidate countries; earlier in the week Mr Svoboda and foreign ministers from the other candidate countries stated they would no longer negotiate agricultural policy with the E.U. individually, but as a united bloc.

President Havel's condition unchanged

According to the president's spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, President Havel's health condition has not changed substantially since Thursday. Mr Havel, who is suffering from a respiratory infection and is taking antibiotics, is undergoing medical treatment at the presidential residence in Lany, although doctors are not ruling out his admission to hospital if the infection does not recede. For the moment, however, he is without fever. The President's office has cancelled all the president's engagements until Saturday, when he plans to cast his vote in Senate elections, although there are plans to restrict his schedule on Monday, when the Mr Havel was meant to make public appearances on the country's national holiday. October 28th marks the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918.

Over three thousand Czech farmers and agriculture workers to petition government

The Czech Agriculture Chamber has announced that more than 3,000 farmers will march in Prague next week in protest of the critical economic situation in the agriculture sector, presenting the country's prime minister with a signed petition. The chamber said the petition would underscore the danger of looming bankruptcies, and would contain the signatures of some 150, 000 farmers, co-op workers, and other representatives. The Chamber added that protestors would be bussed into the capital from the Pilsen district. According to the Agriculture Chamber the march is intended only as a small protest, but broader demonstrations are being planned if farmers' concerns are not taken seriously.

Weather

Saturday will see cloudy skies with a chance of showers in places. Day-time temperatures will reach highs between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius.