Voting is underway on the first day of Czech general elections. Polls across the country opened at 2 PM on Friday, and will close at 10 PM. On Saturday, polling stations will reopen again between 8 AM and 2 PM. Preliminary results are expected some three hours later. The elections were triggered by the fall of the centre-right government of former prime minister Petr Nečas; twenty-three parties and groupings are contesting seats in the 200-strong lower house. Seventeen of them are fielding candidates in all fourteen regions, with the highest number of parties and groupings registered in Prague.
Close to 8,000 Czechs abroad have registered to vote in the elections; some of them have travelled hundreds of kilometres to the nearest polling station. There are 104 polling stations outside the Czech Republic, mostly at Czech embassies and consulates. Czechs abroad are selecting candidates from the central Bohemian ballot.
Most Czech university rectors will boycott the celebrations of Czechoslovak Independence Day held at Prague Castle on October 28, the Czech Rectors Conference said. 21 out of 26 rectors of Czech public universities will not attend the event in solidarity with two of their colleagues – Masaryk University’s Mikuláš Bek and South Bohemian University’s Libor Grubhoffer – who were not invited to attend over past arguments with President Miloš Zeman who formally hosts the event. Prague Mayor Tomáš Hudeček has announced he would not be present either, along with mayors of a number of other cities and towns. A spokeswoman for the president said it was a personal decision of each invitee whether they will attend or not.
In related news, President Miloš Zeman on Friday clarified the reasons behind his decision not to invite two university rectors to Monday’s celebrations of Czechoslovak Independence Day. The rector of Brno’s Masaryk University, Mikuláš Bek prevented the president from giving a lecture to university students during his visit to Brno last month over concerns of political campaigning; President Zeman said on Friday he considered the refusal an insult to the head of state. The other rector omitted from the guest list, Libor Grubhoffer from the South Bohemian University, meanwhile, was not invited because he backed literary historian Martin C. Putna whom the president refused to appoint professor.
A former dean of Charles University’s 1st Faculty of Medicine, Tomáš Zima has been elected the university’s new rector. Mr Zima received 42 out of 70 votes in the second round of voting by the Academic Senate, beating the other candidate, deputy rector Stanislav Štech. Tomáš Zima will assume his post in February when the four-year term of his predecessor, Václav Hampl, expires. Mr Zima, who is 47, served as the dean of the medical school until last year when he became the head of the faculty’s Institute of Medical Biochemistry and Laboratory Diagnostics.
Vodafone Czech Republic has lodged a complaint to the European Commission over an auction of mobile frequencies, a spokeswoman for the company said. In July, the Czech telecommunications regulator launched a rerun auction of frequencies that will allow operators to provide new 4G services; Vodafone complains that the rules of the new auction favour new competitors. The mobile phone operator also filed a lawsuit with a Czech court, and a petition to the country’s anti-monopoly agency over the auction.
The head of the board of supervisors of the Czech state-owned energy firm ČEZ, Martin Roman, has resigned. He has also stepped down as member of the board. Mr Roman, who served as the utility’s CEO between 2004 and 2011, gave no specific reasons for his decision; according to media reports, however, the company’s former boss might want to avoid being held responsible for some of the firm’s controversial deals including the sale of one of the firm’s subsidiary, I&C Energo, and ČEZ’s role in the country’s solar boom relying on massive state subsidies. The position of the board of supervisors’ head will temporarily remain vacant, the Finance Ministry said.
A court in Opava on Friday conditionally released a woman sentenced to prison for the abuse of her two sons in the 2007 Kuřim case. She has served six years out of her nine-year term. The boys’ mother was sentenced along with five other people including Barbora Škrlová, a 33-year-old woman at the time who posed a 13-year-old girl. The group severely abused the boys, presumably to force them into obedience; the true motivation of the abusers has never been established.
The police detained 33 of some 200 squatters who occupied an empty government building in central Prague on Thursday night. The squatters moved in at around 8 PM on Thursday, and said they were planning to convert the building into a community centre. However, the police cleared the premises at 3 AM on Friday, after most of the occupiers voluntarily left. 33 people were taken to a police station to ascertain their identities, and were later released. This was the second such incident in Prague; in August, squatters occupied a privately-owned building in the Prague Castle area, and were removed by the police just hours later.
The Czech Health Ministry on Friday warned against three batches of NovoMix 30 Flexpen insulin pens, produced by the firm Novo Nordisk. They were found to contain inconsistent amounts of the active ingredient and are being withdrawn from the market. Some 2,500 Czech diabetes patients are at risk of using the pens; the ministry said they can receive new insulin pens free of charge. The warning came from the EU’s medicines agency and applies to 12 countries of the bloc.