News Tuesday, NOVEMBER 14th, 2000

By Libor Kubik

Ruling Social Democrats do badly in Czech Senate election

Right-wing parties and the Communists scored major victories over the ruling Social Democrats in Sunday's Senate by-elections in the Czech Republic.

Officials say the election was marked by a low turnout of less than 40 percent. The Senate is the upper house of the Czech parliament.

Runoff elections will be required next week in 26 of the 27 Senate districts where no single candidate polled the 50 percent majority needed for victory.

According to the latest results released, Social Democrat candidates advanced to runoffs in only five of the 27 districts up for grab. The Senate has 81 seats.

The Social Democrats also did poorly in 13 elections for new regional parliaments, which are to meet for the first time shortly before Christmas. The Social Democrat leader, Prime Minister Milos Zeman, said he accepted full responsibility for the party's poor election results.

President Vaclav Havel said the low turnout was a warning signal about a poor rapport between the political establishment and the voters. He appealed to voters to take part in the second round of Senate elections.

SocDem might carry out reshuffle

Two Social Democrat vice chairmen didn't rule out that they will run for the post of party chairman at its upcoming national congress.

The current chairman Milos Zeman has long indicated he plans to step down next year.

Stanislav Gross and Vladimir Spidla said the party's central committee could discuss the matter at its nearest meeting in December. The congress itself is scheduled for next spring.

Single Czech victim of Austrian railway fire a skiing instructor

The only Czech victim of the mountain railway fire in Kaprun, Austria on Saturday was probably a skiing instructor working in a local hotel.

Its owner, who is Czech, has told reporters that the woman, whose name was withheld, had been in charge of a group of Japanese skiers known to have been on the train.

The Austrian interior ministry has confirmed that there was a Czech national among the victims.

More than 160 people are now known to have died in the disaster.

Greek president visits Czech Republic

Greek President Constantine Stefanopoulos today begins a visit to Prague for talks with senior Czech officials on bilateral relations and the developments in the Balkans, where Greece is considered an important stabilising factor.

Later in the day, he will meet with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel and Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus.

Mr Stefanopoulos arrived in Prague one month after President Havel's visit to Turkey, with which Greece is embroiled in a dispute over Cyprus and sovereignty in the Aegean Sea.

Czechs become members of Western European Union's Armaments Group

The Czech Republic has become a member of the Western European Armaments Group - one of the organisations that will continue to exist even after the disbanding of the Western European Union.

The group, which the Czechs joined together with five other countries, will continue as a platform for cooperation in the field armaments among its 19 member countries.

Soccer: Napoli fire Czech coach

Football -- and Italy's bottom-ranked Serie A club Napoli have fired their Czech coach Zdenek Zeman.

Napoli are winless with two points from six games.

Czech weather report

After a foggy night with scattered showers and early morning lows between four and eight degrees Centigrade, Tuesday will be a cloudy day and some rain is expected in the western parts of the Czech Republic. Daytime highs between 11 and 15 degrees.

On Wednesday, the morning lows will be from one to five Celsius, daytime highs from eight to 12 degrees in the west, and between ten and 14 Celsius in Moravia and Silesia. Scattered showers are highly likely.

And on Thursday, the skies will be cloudy all day long, nighttime lows between zero and plus five degrees, daytime temperatures between seven and 11 Celsius.