Polling stations opened across the country at 2 PM on Friday for Czechs to
vote in Senate and regional elections. Voters will choose assemblies in 13
of the country’s 14 regions – with the exception of Prague. Voting is
held in conjunction with elections to a third of the Senate. Polling
stations will close at 10 PM on Friday to reopen the next day between 8 AM
and 2 PM. Some 10 percent of the voters turned up in the course of first
few hours, the news agency ČTK reported.
At present, the opposition Social Democrats head governments in all the regions and look set to maintain much of that advantage. The elections are widely perceived as an indicator of public opinion on the government’s austerity drive.
Czech President Václav Klaus considers the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for the
European Union "a tragic error". Mr Klaus, who first did not
take the news of the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision serisouly, told
reporters later on Friday the Nobel Peace Prize had a meaning when awarded
to an individual for their unique
actions; however, it turned into an "empty award" when handed to
a bureaucratic insititution, the Czech president added.
For his part, the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, welcomed the Nobel Peace Prize for the EU as the right decision. However, Mr Schwarzenberg also said that he would have personally preferred to see the prize go to an individual.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the European Union deserved the award for its role in advancing peace in Europe. According the committee, the EU helped to transform Europe "from a continent of war to a continent of peace".
The police on Friday levelled charges of posing a threat to public safety against another distributor of methanol-laced bootleg liquor. A 54-year-old man from Zlín faces up to 20 years in prison, or even an exceptional sentence of life imprisonment, for distributing the deadly beverage mix. The police had earlier charged two distributors of methanol-laced liquor; in total, 40 people have been charged in the case of methanol poisonings which killed 28 people in the Czech Republic over the last month.
In related news, the police warned on Friday that 12,000 litres of methanol-laced liquor were still unaccounted for. The head of the special police team investigation the methanol crisis, Václav Kučera, said only 3,000 litres of the deadly beverage had been found to date. Mr Kučera also appealed to the public to exercise caution when drinking spirits, and said he himself had been very careful in doing so since the outbreak of the crisis.
Iraq has agreed to buy 28 Czech-made L-159 jet training aircraft for 19.2 billion crowns, or around one billion US dollars, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister told the Reuters news agency on Friday. Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki is in Prague on a working visit, heading a political and business delegation. Details of the deal have been agreed at a meeting of the Czech and Iraqi defence ministers. Four planes will be shipped to Iraq within seven months’ time while the remaining 24 aircraft will be newly produced and delivered in two years. The Iraqi contract is the first successful sale of the aircraft which the Czech government has been trying to sell for years.
A 57-year-old man set himself on fire in front of a court building in Litoměřice, some 50 km northwest of Prague, on Friday evening, a police spokeswoman told the news website idnes.cz. The man was airlifted to a Prague hospital in serious condition, the spokeswoman said, adding the police were working to establish the motive of the man's action.
The police on Friday questioned Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Jaromír Drábek in connection with bribery charges raised against his deputy, Vladimír Šiška. Mr Šiška was arrested last week over alleged corruption related to an overpriced IT deal at the ministry. Minister Drábek, who said he would step down from his post at the end of the month because of the scandal, reiterated on Friday he believed in his deputy’s innocence.
The inspectorate of the Czech security forces found that Saturday’s controversial response by Prague municipal police to an incident at the Anděl intersection was adequate. The incident involved several municipal police officers who tackled a pair of homeless people for were drinking alcohol at a tram stop. An onlooker who thought they used excessive force intervened and the officers used a pepper spray against him before they handcuffed him and took him away. The inspectorate said they only error the officers committed was the use of pepper spray.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6:3, 7:6 in the quarterfinal of the Shanghai Masters tournament on Friday and reached the event’s semifinals. The fourth-seeded Czech had a great serve in the match and only made few errors to wrap the game in one hour and 34 minutes. Another Czech player, Radek Štepánek, was knocked out of the tournament when he lost to third seed Andy Murray of the UK 4:6, 6:2, 6:3.
The Czech Republic’s national football team beat Malta 3:1 in Plzeň on Friday, in their second World Cup qualification game. The Czechs had a good start but failed to score in the opening phase of the game, allowing the visitors to press on. But 34 minutes into the game, Limberský sent in a pass from the left which Gebre Selassie finished with a header, ending the Czech team's a 412-minute long goalless streak. Malta equlized just four minutes later but in the second half, the dominating Czechs added to more strikes, by Tomáš Pekhart in the 52th minute and Jan Rezek 15 minutes later. The Czechs are currently ranked second with four points in their World Cup 2014 qualification group.