News Saturday, NOVEMBER 14th, 1998

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Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Elections ended, attendance low

Local and Senate elections in the Czech Republic ended on Saturday at two p.m. According to an exit poll released by Czech television on Saturday, conservative parties took a lead over the ruling Social Democrats in the first round of the Senate elections, in which a third of the 81 seats are being contested. However,the poll indicated that there were no outright winners, and that a second round of voting would have to be held in all 27 constituencies being contested.

The same poll suggests that in the battle for seats in the Senate some 30 per cent of voters gave their vote to the main opposition Civic Democrats of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. About 26 per cent favoured a coalition of the four remaining conservative parties. The Social Democrats were expected to win 25 per cent and the Communists 12 per cent. The poll indicated that the Social Democrats could significantly improve their result in the second round next week.

Both the senate and local elections were marked by little interest from the public. Attendance reached 50 percent in only a few constituencies. In most areas, only 20 to 40 percent of those eligible to vote came to the polls.

According to the deputy leader of the Communist Party, Vaclav Exner, low participation in the polls shows that people are disappointed by politics as such. In Exner's opinion, people think that however they cast their vote, it will make no difference.

The Freedom Union put up its candidates for the senate and local elections for the first time. Party leader Jan Ruml said his party had fought hard during the campaign. He added that he was surprised by the low turnout.

The Social Democrats are optimistic about the results of the senate elections and expect to double their number of seats in the upper house. However, Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman was also disappointed by the turnout. "The fact that Social Democrat voters do not like the Senate as such and did not vote for our candidates, does not mean that the senate will cease to exist, they will only have a senator from another party," Milos Zeman noted.

Demonstration against racism

A public demonstration against racism took place on Saturday in the East Bohemian city of Hradec Kralove. Several dozen people protested against racism and xenophobia in the Czech Republic. One of the organizers, Radim Sterchovsky, pointed out that there have been 15 racially motivated murders over the past nine years, and only half of other racially motivated crimes have been taken to court. In Sterchovsky's opinion, the Czech nation should apologise to Romanies, Sudeten Germans as well as to other minorities for bad treatment.

Man Who Committed Suicide was German

The man who committed suicide on Friday afternoon by jumping under an underground train in Prague was a 45-year old employee of the German embassy. Prague police reported on Saturday that the man had left a suicide note. Prague subway line A was stopped for more than an hour on Friday afternoon because of the accident.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a cloudy day with scattered showers, afternoon highs should range from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for Monday and Tuesday: it should be much the same as on Sunday, mostly cloudy with occasional showers, with temperatures between zero and 4 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.