Czech left-wing parties have secured a constitutional majority in the
Senate, the upper house of Parliament. Elections took place in 27
constituencies in which the Social Democrats won 13 seats, the Communist
Party won in one constituency and a candidate for the centre-left party of
Citizens Rights of Milos Zeman also got one seat in the upper chamber.
brings the overall number of left-wing senators in the upper house to 49.
The second round of elections to the Senate was another crushing disappointment for the ruling Civic Democrats who entered the second round with 13 candidates but only won four seats, bringing the overall number of Civic Democrat senators to 15, the lowest ever. Prime Minister Petr Necas said the Civic Democrats should accept the defeat with humility and analyze its cause. He thanked voters for not strengthening the role of the Communists who went into the second round of elections with 12 candidates but only won 1 seat. The rest of the constituencies are divided among small parties and independents.
Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka thanked voters for his party’s election victory and pledged to use the party’s newfound strength in the upper chamber to prevent controversial and socially unjust reforms. He said the outcome of both the regional and senate elections was a clear signal that the public was unhappy with the present government’s course and would help increase the pressure on the Nečas government to resign from office. The Social Democrats will now have 46 senators in the upper chamber, the highest number any party has achieved so far.
Air pollution is reported to have worsened severely in parts of Moravia and Silesia overnight with the concentration of dust particles in the air far exceeding permitted norms at 13 of 15 monitoring stations. According to data from the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute the concentration of harmful substances in the air is more than double the permitted norm in Ostrava and Karvina where the authorities have advised elderly people and children to stay indoors as much as possible. The situation is being closely monitored by city hall which has the right to call a smog alert and ask industrial plants to scale-down production.
France’s Areva has appealed against ČEZ’s decision to exclude it from a 10 billion dollar tender for the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. The state-owned French company addressed all the reasons given for its exclusion and said its offer was the most competitive. ČEZ has 10 days to review Areva’s appeal and publish its decision. In the event of a rejection, Areva would be entitled to file a complaint to the Czech anti-monopoly office, which would have 60 days to review the case. Areva was rejected from the tender for allegedly failing to meet legislative and commercial requirements. Westinghouse Electric Corp. and a Russian-Czech group led by Rosatom Corp.’s unit ZAO Atomstroyexport are still competing for the deal to build two more nuclear reactors at Temelin. ČEZ should choose the winner in mid- 2013 and sign a final contract with the respective company by the year’s end.
An article in Friday’s edition of the daily Právo which claimed that 60 percent of the Roman minority are unemployed by choice and are not looking for work has elicited a stormy debate and given rise to fresh anti-Roma sentiment. The paper published the figure citing the government’s agency for social inclusion as its source. The agency in turn cited the World Bank as its source and noted that the figure only reflected the situation in the worst affected areas around the country where Romanies live in utter social exclusion and have often given up on finding work. Despite the revision, the article has aroused deep public discontent with close to 800 readers taking part in an online debate that was in part vulgar and racist. One reader said he was considering taking the paper to court for inciting anti-Roma sentiment.
The daily Mlada Fronta Dnes has accused Labour and Social Minister Jaromir Drabek of lying to the public when he promised that the newly introduced electronic system for paying out welfare benefits would also be used for pensions. The paper says that an agreement on the so called S-cards between the ministry and the Česká Spořitelna bank clearly states that the cards will serve to pay out pensions as well. The new S-card system has evoked enormous controversy, with critics pointing out that pensioners living in small villages may have problems getting to a money machine and would inevitably lose money on the transaction from their already meagre pensions. In the wake of last week’s election defeat the prime minister said the system would have to be revised, but Mlada Fronta Dnes points out this will not be at all easy since it would not only require a change of legislation but moreover the bank would almost certainly take the matter to court.
Skoda’s latest model –a mid-sized sedan Rapid –went on sale in the Czech Republic on Saturday. The roomy, elegant sedan billed as “an affordable car for the whole family” attracted crowds of people to Skoda’s sales outlets for a closer look and a trial run. A Skoda spokesman said several hundred sales orders had been placed. Skoda Auto is expecting to produce 50,000 Rapid models next year.
Voting has begun in the second round of Senate elections. Polling stations are open from 2pm until 10 pm on Friday and from 8 to 2 pm on Saturday. Seats are being contested to a third of the senate, with voting taking place in 27 districts around the country, The Social Democrats are contesting seats in 23 constituencies, the Communists in 12, the Civic Democrats will be contesting 19 seats and the remaining 9 will be contested by smaller parties and independent candidates. No matter how the vote turns out, it is clear that the left-wing parties will defend their majority in the upper house.
The opposition Social Democrats are set to propose a two-year postponement of the country’s pension reform. Chairman of the Social Democrat deputies, Jeroným Tejc, said that the introduction of the controversial second pillar of the pension reform should be decided on after the next parliamentary elections. Although the lower house has already passed the pension reform package, it is yet to vote on overriding the president’ veto of an essential bill, which would allow for the reforms to come into effect as of next year. The Social Democrats have already submitted a similar proposal in the past, but were not successful.
At a meeting of the Confederation of political prisoners on Thursday President Václav Klaus said that those responsible for the growing popularity of the Communist Party should accept the blame. Referring inexplicitly to the parties currently in the ruling coalition, President Klaus said that those who took a beating in last weekend’s regional elections have to learn from their defeat and take corrective measures. The president had commented on the election results previously on Sunday, simply saying that they were “clear, unequivocal and comprehensible“ and that people should draw their own conclusions from them.