News of Radio Prague

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Little interest in first round of Senate elections

Voting has ended in the first round of the weekend's Senate elections in a poll marked by widespread voter apathy. Officials said just 24 percent of people had bothered to vote - the lowest turnout since the upper house was created six years ago. The Senate is highly unpopular among the public, with most people seeing it as irrelevant. The low turnout was also due to the long weekend, which many Czechs are spending at their country cottages.

Most seats undecided, Civic Democrats make strong showing

A third of the Senate's 81 seats are being contested, but only one candidate was elected in the first round. The remaining 26 seats will be decided by a runoff next weekend. The main opposition Civic Democrats made the strongest showing, sending 19 candidates into the second round. They were followed by the ruling Social Democrats. The Senate has little real power, as vetoes can be overridden by the lower house. But its consent is crucial for changes to the constitution, and the elections will influence who is to succeed President Vaclav Havel in February.

Zelezny wins in first round, to stay on at TV Nova

TV Nova director Vladimir Zelezny, the only candidate to win in the first round, has said he will stay on as head of the popular television station. Mr Zelezny, who won the Znojmo constituency with just under 51 percent of the vote, told reporters he was capable of handling both jobs at the same time. Mr Zelezny was the most controversial candidate in this year's elections. He is being prosecuted for a number of fraud offences, including damaging the interests of a creditor and tax evasion. Some claim he sought public office in a bid to gain immunity from prosecution.

Electoral commission officer dies of heart attack

The only incident in an otherwise uneventful first round occurred in Brno, when a member of the electoral commission died of a heart attack minutes before the polling booth was due to open on Saturday morning. Doctors were unable to save the 75-year-old man, who collapsed shortly after arriving at the polling booth. The chief electoral officer said voting had began on time.

Havel forced to cancel state holiday engagements

Turning to other news, and President Havel has been forced to change his programme for Monday's state holiday celebrations because of ill health. Mr Havel, who fell ill last week with his chronic breathing problem, was ordered by doctors to stay at home for most of Monday, the anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia. He will not attend the appointment of new generals, and will not lay a wreath at the statue of Czechoslovakia's first President Tomas Garrigue Masayrk. He will, however, attend a gala evening at Prague Castle to award state medals, and will make a short speech.

High winds cause havoc across Czech Republic

High winds in the Czech Republic have brought down trees and caused power cuts. Some roads and railway lines were blocked by fallen trees in western parts of the country, as winds reached over 130 kilometres per hour in places. The high winds are expected to continue throughout Sunday night and Monday, and drivers have been asked to exercise caution. A 28-year-old man died on Saturday after a tree fell on his car.

Weather forecast

Monday will be another mostly cloudy day, with the chance of showers or rain in places. Temperatures in the daytime will range from 6 to 10 degrees Celsius.