Both the leadership and the Central Executive Committee of the Social Democrat party have approved the steps the party's acting leader, Stanislav Gross, is taking in trying to form a new government following the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla in June. An overwhelming majority of the committee members have also agreed that Mr Gross should continue the talks with the party's coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, on the forming of a government that should last until the end of the term in 2006. Mr Gross said earlier that the new government could seek a vote of confidence in the lower house in mid-August.
However, a few dissenting voices were heard at the Social Democrat Central Executive Committee meeting on Sunday. For example the former foreign minister Jan Kavan said he was not willing to sign a document pledging support for the new government before he actually knew its policy programme. Observers say that around ten Social Democrat MPs might follow Mr Kavan's decision. Also, the head of the lower house Foreign Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lastuvka, said the best option would be a minority Social Democrat government because he said he doubted the Social Democrats would be able to stick to their 2002 election manifesto in a broad coalition cabinet.
The Interior Ministry has said that the month of June saw the smallest number of asylum seekers in the Czech Republic since 1999. While in May, 420 people applied for asylum, in June the number dropped to 317. Last June, the number of asylum seekers was almost twice as high, at 899. Most new applications were filed by the citizens of Ukraine, China and Vietnam. According to the Interior Ministry the decrease was caused by the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union, whose legislation stipulates that asylum seekers have to apply in the country in which they first crossed EU borders.
Customs officers confiscated illegal stockpiles of cigarettes worth more than 14,000 euros and some 120 litres of alcohol on Saturday in a surprise raid on the largest open air market in the Czech Republic, in Potucky near the west Bohemian town of Karlovy Vary. Detectives from the Czech Trade Inspection confiscated almost 700 pieces of counterfeit brand clothing worth approximately 40,000 euros. The customs officers, who arrested four people during the raid, are going to stay at the site for the next few days to monitor the market with approximately 2,000 mostly Vietnamese stall keepers. The sale of alcohol and cigarettes at open-air markets was banned in January this year.
Twenty-two-year-old Candice Morgan from South Africa was crowned Miss Deaf World 2004 in Prague on Saturday. The title of first vice-miss went to 22-year-old Vaida Kuzminskyte from Lithuania, and second vice-miss to 20-year old Tatyana Prichodko from Ukraine. Deaf women from all over Europe and Africa took part in the annual contest, initiated by deaf people from the Czech Republic in 2001. The jury included ice hockey player Dominik Hasek.
Monday should be another hot and sunny day with daytime temperatures reaching highs of 31 degrees Celsius.
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