Prague’s Public Transportation Company has opened a part of the new tunnel where the extension of the A line of the underground will be located to the public. Visitors can take an hour-long tour through the bare tunnel between the future stations Veleslavín and Vypich on Saturday between 9 am to 4 pm on Saturday.
A week-long relay of protests against the presence of Communists councillors in regional governments will finish off with a protest on Saturday at Prague’s Wenceslas Square. During the so-called Palach week, protests were held in Olomouc, Ústí nad Labem, Karlovy Vary, České Budějovice and Zlín. Attendance varied between dozens and a couple of hundred people. Protesters want to warn the public against communist ideology and are asking members of the Communist Party to step down from regional council seats.
The number of deaths in the Czech Republic this season due to severe cases of the flu has gone up to 24, while the number of hospitalized is currently around 140, according to the Friday statement of the Chief Hygiene Officer Vladimír Valenta. The number of people with acute respiratory problems grew by seven percent and those sick with the flu by 60% in the second week of January. The flu epidemic has spread from western regions of the country to the east in the past few weeks. Mr Valenta noted that the decrease in the number of newly infected in the Karlovy Vary region may be a sign that the epidemic is coming to an end. But some regions are still struggling with an increasing number of patients. In the Prostějov region, in western Moravia, there were 2041 people per 100,000 inhabitants with the flu as of Saturday – well above the country-wide figures.
During the presidential debate, Prima Family broadcasted a video where the Czech first lady Livia Klausová endorsed Miloš Zeman. Mrs Klausová said she does not want her successor to speak only German, refering to Karel Schwarzenberg’s wife who does not speaks Czech. She also said that Mr Zeman has spent his whole life in the Czeech Republic and has a relationship to the country and its people, echoing her husband’s remarks from a few days ago.
Czech ski jumper Jan Matura has won his first World Cup tournament in Sapporo, Japan. Matura became the first Czech in four years to win a World Cup ski jumping tournament. The 32-year-old took first place with 132 and 135-meter jumps, seven-tenths of a point ahead of the Norwegian Tom Hilde. Matura had his previous career record also in Sapporo two years ago when he took fourth place.
The number of victims of car accidents in Prague was at an all-time low in 2012. According to the Prague Traffic Police Chief Pavel Švrčula, 26 died in the capital in the course of last year. The number of serious injuries and the number of accidents also went down from the year before. The police were called to the scene of 17,800 accidents, which is the lowest number in the past 14 years. Though, the number of people with minor injuries went up by 50 from 2011.
The two presidential candidates - Miloš Zeman and Karel Schwarzenberg - faced off in a second televized debate on Friday evening, this time on the private Prima Family channel. The atmosphere was more laid back than in the Czech Television debate the night before, but candidates took the opportunity to take stabs at each other. Mr Zeman came back to the issue of the Beneš decrees and the expulsion of Sudeten Germans at the end of World War two, which Mr Schwarzenberg described on Thurdsay as a gross violation of human rights according to today’s standards. The former prime minister strongly retorted in the Friday debate that describing a former Czechoslovak president as a war criminal is not presidential. According to some polls, Mr Zeman has been gaining more ground over his opponent in the last week, after the two finished less than a percentage point apart in the first round of the elections.
The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn strongly criticised of the government’s decision to release from jail two Czechs – Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar – suspected of espionage. In an article on its webpage, the party said the court’s decision shows once again that the Greek government is not concerned with national security. It also supported the unsubstantiated allegations that the two Czech videogame developers were recruited to spy for the Turkish government. Mr Buchta and Ms Pezlar were released from jail this week after spending four months in custody and returned to the Czech Republic on Thursday.
The Constitutional Court will not deliberate on the complaint filed by members of the Public Affairs party over the law on church property restitution, because not enough parliamentarians had signed it. The Public Affairs party asked the court to strike the law down. The head of the party, Radek John, said that the requirement to have either 41 deputies from the lower house or 17 senators sign such a request to be considered by the court was discriminatory. He added that he plans to approach senators for support. Communist deputies are also preparing to file a legal complaint against the restitution law that was pushed through in the fall by the governing coalition.
Most political commentators have agreed that the Thursday night debate on Czech Television between the two presidential candidates – Karel Schwarzenberg and Miloš Zeman – ended in a draw. Mr Zeman tried attacking his opponent on a number of issues including his stance on the recent presidential amnesty, his opinion of the deportation of Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War Two, and the mistakes the foreign minister makes when speaking Czech. Mr Schwarzenberg fended off the criticism without changing his previously held positions on the issues. The candidates are scheduled to appear in two more televised debates and one more radio debate before Czechs vote in the second round of the presidential election next Friday.
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