The electoral campaign for the direct presidential elections formally began on Wednesday, 16 days ahead of the first round of voting. The individual candidates launched their campaigns much earlier; each of them will now also receive five hours of air time at the country’s public broadcasters, Czech TV and Czech Radio. The electoral campaign will cease two days before the first round of the vote, scheduled for January 11 and 12. Nine candidates are in the Czech presidential race; however, some unsuccessful aspirants intend to challenge the election process before court which could delay the election.
Record-high temperatures have been registered in more than 30 places across the Czech Republic, mainly in southern and western Bohemia. The highest temperature – 16.6 degrees Celsius – was recorded in the community of Vlkovice, outside Klatovy in the south of the country, meteorologists said. However, the warmest Christmas holidays in recent memory occurred in 1983 when temperatures exceeded 17 degrees Celsius.
In related news, meteorologists on Wednesday warned of increased risk of flooding due to swelling rivers in the south and west of the country. While water levels are expected to remain stable over the next 24 hours, heavy rain which should arrive on Thursday, could swell upper courses of many rivers. The warning is in place for the West Bohemian and parts of the South Bohemian regions between Thursday night and Saturday morning.
Despite a spell of unusually warm weather, the authorities on Wednesday warned drivers against snow- and ice-covered roads in parts of the country. In the eastern part of the Czech Republic, many roads continue to be covered with frozen snow and fallen trees complicate traffic in some places. Most main roads in the Šumava and Krkonoše mountains have been gritted but the authorities call on drivers to exercise extra caution.
The average Czech retirement pension is set in for a slight increase in January which will fall short of covering the rising cost of living, the news website novinky.cz reported on Wednesday. The average monthly pension of just over 10,700 crowns, or less than 570 US dollars, will rise by 137 crowns. However, this will not cover the inflation rate of 2.7 percent along with a one-percent rise in VAT. The centre-right government this year froze pension increases which are otherwise by law set to cover a 2-percent or higher rise in inflation and real wages.
Some 4.5 billion crowns of public money were spent last year on care for cultural heritage and historical monuments, according to figures by the Czech Statistical Office. Regions, towns and municipalities spent 2.5 billion crowns in 2011 while the state provided around 2 billion. The bulk of the state funds comes from the Culture Ministry which finances the National Heritage Institute, an organization in charge of maintaining around 100 chateaus, castles and other historic sites.
Some 240 people are taking part on Wednesday in the 66th edition of the Alfréd Nikodém Memorial, an annual winter swim in the Vltava River in Prague. This year, swimmers from Slovakia, Poland, the UK and Germany also participated in the event which takes place near the National Theatre building in the centre of the capital. The swim is named after Prague winter swimmer Alfréd Nikodém who established the tradition in 1923.
Senator Tomio Okamura said he would on Thursday file a complaint with the Czech Constitutional Court over his elimination as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election. The Interior Ministry refused to register the senator as a candidate in the race on the grounds he had failed to collect the 50,000 signatures required by law to stand as the error rate found in the petition was too high. The decision was later confirmed by Supreme Administrative Court. Mr Okamura’s complaint, and those filed by some other aspirants for the race, could delay the first direct presidential election the first round of which is planned for January 11 and 12.
Warm weather has raised water levels in rivers in the south, west, and central Bohemia. On Tuesday morning, the Berounka reached the second degree of flood risk at Zbečno, some 40 kilometres west of Prague while lower levels of flood hazard have been declared at several other places. In the eastern Czech Republic, freezing rain, snow and ice-covered roads complicate traffic. The authorities have appealed to drivers to exercise extra caution.
The head of the Czech Roman Catholic church, Archbishop Dominik Duka, hosted Christmas lunch for homeless people. The lunch, organized for the 14th time by the Sant'Egidio community, was held in the Archbishop Palace and the Capuchin Monastery in Hradčany. Some 270 guests arrived to enjoy the traditional liver dumpling soup, beef in cream sauce, roast duck with cabbage and dumplings, and Christmas cookies. Every guest also received a small gift.