Polling stations in 27 electoral districts across the Czech Republic opened at 2 PM on Friday for the second round of voting for the Senate. Voters are selecting one third of the 81-seat Senate, the upper chamber of the Czech Parliament. The centre-left government coalition is looking to preserve a majority in the Senate as in 15 out of the 27 districts, coalition candidates are likely to win, according to media reports. The election concludes at 2 PM on Saturday.
President Miloš Zeman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Friday paid tribute to a student killed in Tuesday’s knife attack at a secondary school in Žďár nad Sázavou. Mr Zeman and Mr Sobotka, who arrived independently, lit candles outside the school and briefly met with the school’s director. The prime minister later praised the work of emergency response workers, and said he would propose the student for a state decoration. The 16-year-old boy was killed by the attacker, a mentally ill woman, while trying to protect a fellow student.
The Czech Judges’ Union has criticized Justice Minister Helena Válková for her remarks about the deadly attack in a secondary school in Žďár nad Sázavou. Ms Válková said that a court in Opava failed when it released a mentally ill woman from hospital care in 2013, a year after she held a girl hostage in a school in Havířov. On Tuesday, the woman, who allegedly suffers from schizophrenia, attacked students in Ždár, killing a 16-year-old boy. However, the Judges’ Union said the minister breached the law and the Constitution when she publicly criticized decisions made by an independent court.
ANO leader in Brno, Petr Vokřál, is set to become mayor of the country’s second largest city after his party on Friday struck a deal to form a coalition with the Live Brno movement along with the Christian Democrats and the Greens. Details of the coalition deal are to be finalized by the end of the month. This comes as a blow to the Social Democrats who controlled the city hall for the past eight years and came second in the local elections last week. Coalition talks in Prague and other large Czech cities are ongoing.
The Czech government is planning to compensate victims of forced sterilization by 2015, the news agency ČTK reported quoting the government’s response to the UN Committee for Human Rights. The cabinet says it will next year put forward legislation that should comprehensively address compensation and other claims of the victims towards the state. In 2004, several dozen mainly Romany women approached the authorities with complaints there were forcibly sterilized. The government apologized to the victims in 2007 but the issue of compensation has not since been resolved. The UN committee has repeatedly criticized the Czech Republic for its failure to compensate the women as well as other issues including the wide-spread discrimination and segregation of Romanies.
The Czech Republic is an active and stable member of NATO, the recently appointed secretary general of the alliance Jens Stoltenberg told Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický. The officials met in Brussels on Friday. Mr Stropnický said his country’s positive image within NATO was the result of Czech soldiers’ participation in foreign missions. The Czech Republic has been criticized for failing to meet its commitment to spend two percent of its GDP on defence. But Mr Stropnický said the Czech government’s plans to gradually increase defence spending to 1.4 percent of GDP by the year 2020 have been well received.
Seven Czech hikers have been stranded in the Nepalese Himalayas following an unexpected snowstorm and avalanche earlier this week, a Czech travel insurance company said. The tourists are to be airlifted to hospital in Kathmandu but the operation has been delayed due to poor weather conditions. There are currently around 120 Czech tourists in Nepal, the Czech Foreign Ministry said, adding that contact has only been established with 27 of them. It is however not clear whether the tourists were staying in the area affected by the avalanche.
Firefighters are still working to extinguish a fire at a munitions depot in the village of Vrbětice in South Moravia. The fire broke out on Thursday morning, following a strong explosion. Two men are reported missing and are feared dead. Hundreds of people were evacuated from companies and a school situated in the vicinity of the depot and the whole area remains enclosed, due to risks of further explosions.
Family, friends and members of the public bid final farewell to actor and former dissident Pavel Landovský at Prague’s St Ignatius church on Friday. He died last Friday at the age of 78. A popular stage and film actor, Landovský opposed the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and signed the human rights manifesto Charter 77. In 1980, he left for Austria and only returned to Prague after the fall of communism. He last appeared in the 2012 film Bastards 3.
A court in Prague has awarded former Czech tennis player Jan Kodeš a compensation of 236,000 crowns for divorce proceedings that took nearly 20 years to conclude. The former Wimbledon and Davis Cup champion filed for divorce in 1988 but the proceedings only finalized 19 years and 7 months later. Mr Kodeš, who is 68, already received compensation of 360,000 crowns two years ago. However, he was requesting 7.5 million crowns in damages from the state.