Czechs began going to the polls on Friday – the first of two days on which they can cast their ballot in municipal elections, as well as to elect representatives to one-third of the Senate. Polls opened at 2 PM local time and close at 10 PM on Friday. They will reopen at 8 AM Saturday and close at 2 PM. This year, a record 165 parties and movements are taking part, fielding more than 230,000 candidates for 60,000 seats in local councils. The number of those running is a third-higher than in 2010. A record number of candidates, a little over 30 percent, are women. For the first time, the municipal elections are open to all EU citizens residing in the country, be they permanent or temporary residents. Those finishing first or second in the Senate elections short of securing a majority outright, will face a run-off in a week's time.
Tests on a suspected case of Ebola in a 56-year-old patient recently back from Liberia have ruled out the deadly disease. The man was admitted to hospital with a fever but no other symptoms and may be suffering from malaria or some other illness. This is the second Ebola scare in the country. In mid-September the health authorities tested a young man from Tanzania for the disease. Special measures have been taken at Prague’s international airport and the Bulovka hospital is equipped to deal with highly contagious diseases.
The Czech Republic is ready if cases of the deadly Ebola virus appear, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Friday, citing steps taken over the last two days by health officials to isolate and provide care for a Czech businessman suspected of having the disease. The man was admitted to Prague’s Bulovka Hospital on Thursday suffering from a fever; he had recently returned home from Liberia, which has been affected by the Ebola outbreak. He ultimately tested negative for the disease. The prime minister said the Ebola threat would be discussed at a meeting of the National Security Council next week. The country’s Chief Hygiene Officer Jiří Valenta, meanwhile, said that future cases could not be ruled out, although he suggested the risk might diminish somewhat with fewer carriers flying to stricken regions. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the worst since the disease was first identified in the 1970s, killing more than 3,800 people this year.
Czech President Miloš Zeman and members of the government including Education Minister Marcel Chládek applauded the news on Friday that Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai had been chosen as a joint-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, along with Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi. The president, through his spokesman, said it was a message for young people to escape the shackles of intolerant organisations like the Taliban. The 17-year-old activist, the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban last year. The Czech NGO People in Need also applauded the decision by the Nobel Prize Committee, suggesting it was an excellent choice.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek welcomed his Polish counterpart Grzegorz Schetyna in Prague on Friday at Černín Palace to discuss Czech-Polish relations and key issues. The foreign trip is the Polish minister’s third since taking over from Radoslaw Sikorski last month. The ministers discussed the impact of EU sanctions against Russia for its role in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, calling them crucial; they suggested the sanctions had helped blunt steps by Russia and helped a ceasefire hold. A unified stance on Russia, they agreed, was necessary not only for the Czech Republic and Poland, but within the Visegrad Four, which also includes Slovakia and Hungary. Mr Schetyna said that a unified stance on Russia by the V4 would be “better heard” in Europe and Brussels.
Five Czech Gripen fighter jets are to fly to Iceland on Friday for an air patrol mission over Icelandic territory. Thursday’s flight was cancelled due to bad weather over the Atlantic. Over the next nine weeks the Czech air force will take its turn protecting Iceland's airspace, the only NATO member state without an air force of its own. The main part of the 75 member Czech contingent is already there. The cost of the operation, estimated at 33 million crowns, is being covered by Iceland.
The 18th Forum 2000 international conference to get underway in Prague on October 12 will aim to assess democratisation processes over the past 25 years, following the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, organisers have said. The conference this year carries the slogan “Democracy and Its Discontents: A Quarter-Century after the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen”. The main guests will include Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oligarch who was imprisoned under the Putin regime and Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski. Participants are expected to debate current international problems including crises in the Middle East and Ukraine.
Rudolf Čechura, the creator of the much-loved children’s animated film character Maxipes Fík, died on Monday at the age of 83, his grandson has revealed. A funeral ceremony for the author is to be held next week. Mr Čechura came up with the character for the animated children’s TV series Večerníček some 40 years ago. Maxipes (or Maxidog) who knows how to talk and shares incredible dreams with the little girl Aja, has proven to be one of the most popular characters in Czech animation. He was drawn by Jiří Šalamoun and voiced by Josef Dvořák.
The zoo in Plzeň on Friday announced the birth of 21 dwarf or broad-snouted crocodiles. The zoo has been successfully breeding the crocs since 2001. More than 100 have been born to the zoo over that period.
The Czech national football squad will play Turkey on Friday night in Istanbul in their second qualifier for the European championship, Euro 2016. Players such as star keeper Petr Čech, team captain Tomáš Rosický, and striker David Lafata are in the line-up. The Czechs won their opening qualifying match against the Netherlands and currently are first in Group A, tied on three points with Iceland.