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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 Prague branch of the Civic Democratic party voted on Friday to renew membership for the former Prague mayor Pavel Bém. Mr Bém suspended his party membership last March after a scandal broke out over secret phone calls between him and a lobbyist Roman Janoušek from 2007. The conversations were made public in the Czech press causing speculations that Mr Bém was influenced by the lobbyist in decisions concerning a number of public tenders. Representatives of the Prague Civic Democrats said they see no reason to keep a high-ranking member out of the party when there is no concrete proof of wrongdoing.
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.
The Prague state attorney’s office filed a lawsuit against the Czech fugitive businessman Radovan Krejčíř and ten other suspects on Friday. Mr Krejčíř is facing a number of charges including the intention to kill an important witness. Some of the defendants in the case who were previously under investigation were recently cleared of charges as a result of the presidential amnesty from January 1, but this will not apply to the new charges. The group is accused of a number of legal and financial crimes. Mr Krejčíř, who was handed a 15-year sentence last November for a number of other crimes, will so far be investigated and tried in absentia, since he escaped the country in 2005 and is currently residing in the Republic of Seychelles.
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