For the second time, Czechs living abroad were able to take part in the elections. Voting took place at 108 Czech embassies and consulates, but only a fraction of those eligible to vote turned up. The number of people who had registered to vote abroad this year was only slightly higher than in the previous election four years ago. Between 70,000 and 300,000 Czechs eligible to vote are estimated to live abroad but only around 5,000 of those had registered. Turnout figures will be released later.
A fourteen-year old boy died on Friday in the town of Pilsen when a handball net fell on him. Police are investigating the details of the accident. It is the second such accident in just two months. A fourteen year old boy died in May in South Moravia after he was gravely injured by a falling football net.
As the running results were coming in on Saturday afternoon, party leaders remained cautious in their comments saying they would wait for the final results. Both the chairman of the Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, and Social Democrat leader and Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek have thanked Czech voters for the high turnout. Representatives of the Communist Party have said they are disappointed by their party's showing as they believed the final result would be higher than the exit polls suggested. Christian Democrat leaders said they would like to be part of a stable coalition and said several options were possible. The Greens have called this election a historic moment for their party.
A 78-year-old voter suffered a fatal heart attack at a polling station in a district of Prague on Friday. Despite a doctor being on hand it proved impossible to save the woman's life. Another man also suffered a heart attack at a polling station in the Moravian region of Sumperk and could not be saved although he was attended to immediately on site.
With over 99 percent of the vote counted, the right-of-centre opposition
Civic Democrats appear to have won this year's general election with 35.3
percent of the vote, three percent ahead of the ruling Social Democrats
with 32.3 percent. The three other parties that have crossed the 5-percent
threshold needed to enter parliament are the Communists with just under 13
percent, the Christian Democrats with over 7 percent and the Green Party
with over 6 percent.
Voter turnout has been calculated at just under 65 percent, some 6 percent more than in the previous general election four years ago.
The president of the European Parliament Josep Borell has stated that it is the responsibility of all twenty-five EU member states to try and ratify the EU Constitution -on hold after France and the Netherlands rejected the document in referenda last year. Speaking during a visit to Finland Mr Borrel said that the parliament would push for the ratification of the document in countries that have not decided yet: among them Great Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic. In total, fifteen EU countries so far have ratified the document. The EU would like to see at least twenty back the constitution to pave the way for a special summit on the issue.
Polling stations have opened throughout the Czech Republic on the first day of a two-day national election. The election is widely expected to be a close contest between the ruling Social Democratic Party and the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats. Polling stations opened earlier at the Czech Republic's embassies and consulates, for example, in South and North America as well as Australia. Around 5,000 Czechs living abroad have registered at 108 Czech embassies and consulates around the world to take part in this year's elections to the lower house. In the Czech Republic polls will close at two pm on Saturday.
The agency Interkoncerts has confirmed that the American singer Madonna will perform in Prague as part of her "Confessions" tour. She will play the Czech capital on September 6th. Tickets for the concert to take place at Prague's Sazka Arena will go on sale later this month. Prices will range from 3,000 to 5,000 crowns (127 to 208 dollars).
Leading up to the election some 1.4 million people saw a final televised debate between the leaders of the country's two strongest parties. The debate was aired by the Czech Republic's largest commercial broadcaster, TV Nova, on Thursday. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek of the Social Democrats and the right-of-centre Civic Democrats' Mirek Topolanek faced off on issues that included corruption, as well as pension, tax, and health reforms. Public interest in the debates increased over the final week as campaigns wrapped-up. The televised debates - featured on all three of the country's main broadcasters - introduced for the first time in the Czech Republic US-style presidential formats that focused to a greater degree on the leaders of the two strongest political parties.