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18-10-2014

Coalition parties win 18 seats in Senate elections to maintain majority

Three parties in the country's centre-left coalition won 18 out of 27 seats up for grabs in the Senate elections. The coalition will enjoy a majority of 46 in the 81-member upper chamber of Parliament. The Social Democrats clinched 10 seats, the ANO movement four, and the Christian Democrats four. All the same, the position of the Social Democrats weakened: until now, the leftist party had dominated the Senate, they now have 35 seats overall.

The opposition Civic Democrats, Mayors and Independents (STAN) and the Greens won two seats each. The small Party of Citizens´ Rights and the Party of Entrepreneurs won one seat each.

The vote turnout was a record low, below 17 percent.

Notable personalities who won their senate race include the former rector of Charles University Václav Hampl, the founder of the Our Child Foundation Zuzana Baudyšová, the Minister for Human Rights Jiří Dienstbier, and lottery firm billionaire Ivo Valenta.

Dnes: Bělobrádek considering stepping down as leader of Christian Democrats

Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek has told the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes he is considering giving up leadership of the Christian Democratic Party, which he has led successfully since 2010, pulling it back into national politics. Mr Bělobrádek cited family reasons, saying he rarely saw his wife and children; the 37-year-old politician has a two-and-a-half year old son and a three-month-old daughter. Health reasons could also play a role: the deputy prime minister suffers from multiple sclerosis. It is unclear if Mr Bělobrádek decides to give up party leadership, whether it would have an effect on his place in the coalition government. He said he would make his decision in December.

LN: military low on munitions

The Czech military is low on munitions, Czech daily Lidové noviny reports. According to the daily, the army would be hard-pressed to find enough ammunition to last for even 30 days of ground operations. Other munitions, such as missiles for the Čáslav Gripen squadron, are also insufficient and the military lacks cartridges for the mortar turrets of its Pandur armoured personnel carriers and tank guns, the newspaper writes. The same is true of the rapid response force that will be sent by the Czech Republic to help an allied country if attacked. Defence Ministry spokesman Jiří Čaletka is quoted as saying that 1.24 billion crowns had been allotted this year to acquire ammunition, with 203 million to be spent in 2015.

Czech elementary school students redo years less, survey suggests

Some 4.9 percent of Czech fifteen-year-olds who took part in the OECD's PISA 2012 survey, admitted to having had to repeat or redo a year in elementary school at least once. The number is lower than the average 12 percent of 61 countries involved in the project. Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain all posted considerably higher numbers - between 30 and 39 percent. Under the education law in the Czech Republic, students are only allowed to redo a single year (between grades 1-9) once. Authors of the survey maintained that children who repeated due to poor marks were more likely not to complete school overall, suggesting that repeating grades neither benefitted the students in question, nor the education system as a whole.

Experts to conduct search at blast site

Pyrotechnics experts are hoping on Saturday to begin searching through a munitions depot which was destroyed by an explosion on Thursday. Because of the danger of additional explosions, an armored vehicle and a special firefighters' 'tank' will be used at the site in the village of Vrbětice in South Moravia. Two people have been missing since the blast and are feared dead.

Artist Karel Malich turns 90

Renowned Czech artist Karel Malich, known for color pastels and abstract wire objects which many critics and historians consider the pinnacle of Czech abstract art in the second half of the 20th century, turns 90 on Saturday. Malich began his artistic career in the late 1940s, at the time focussing on landscape painting on his native village in Holice, before later turning to more abstract and geometric work. Last year, a major retrospective of Malich's work was held at the Riding School gallery at Prague Castle.

NHL action: forward Vrbata off to excellent start

Czech hockey forward Radim Vrbata has made an excellent start with his new team in the NHL, scoring three goals in three games. On Friday, Vrbata, who plays for Vancouver, scored in the 36th minute against Edmonton, slotting home a pass by Sedin. The goal proved the winner: the Canucks beat the Oilers 2:0.

18-10-2014