Mirek Topolánek has been re-elected chairman of the ruling Civic Democrats, defeating a eurosceptic wing in the party which called for a change of direction. Mr. Topolánek won with a convincing 284 votes against challenger Pavel Bém’s 162. Prague Mayor Pavel Bém, who is seen as a close associate of President Klaus, had called for a Civic Democrat minority government supported by the opposition, arguing that in the current three-party-coalition the Civic Democrats had ceded too much ground and abandoned their policy goals.
The election of the party chairman’s first deputy took three rounds with the post eventually going to a new face in party politics, the mayor of Prague 13, David Vodrážka. Mr. Vodrážka was elected after his chief rival for the post Ivan Langer withdrew his candidacy.
Shortly after the vote, Mr. Topolánek called on the party to unite and rise to the challenges ahead. He said the party was going in the right direction both domestic and foreign-policy wise, but that it had made a lot of mistakes along the way for which he was ready to accept part of the blame. He said it was time to learn from those mistakes, bring an end to party-infighting and regain the party’s lost trust. “We must fill in the trenches and bridge differences which seemed unbridgeable only yesterday” the newly elected leader appealed.
Although Mirek Topolánek's victory will keep in place the centre-right coalition government analysts say his problems are far from over. There are fears that some disgruntled Topolanek critics may peel away from the party's parliamentary group, adding to earlier defections which have reduced the government camp to just 96 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament.
In brief statement to the party conference on Saturday President Václav Klaus announced that he was giving up his post as honorary chairman, citing growing ideological differences between him and the party leadership. Mr. Klaus, who founded the Civic Democrats in 1991, said that in recent years it had changed course, becoming more of a centrist party which he found difficult to accept and identify with. He thanked party members for 18 years of cooperation and said that it was now up to them to choose a path that would benefit not only the party but the Czech Republic.
Mr.Klaus’ decision evoked mixed reactions inside the party he founded. His supporters gave him a standing ovation as he swept out of the conference hall, his critics said that Mr. Klaus’ bruised ego was behind the decision and expressed disappointment that he had not shown greater goodwill and respect for his successor. Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek said that Mr. Klaus’ departure was logical and would in a way be a relief for both sides. Opposition leader Jiří Paroubek of the Social Democrats said that while he did not share Mr. Klaus’ views on the Lisbon treaty he respected him as a politician and could only be glad that his party had lost a strong rival in Mr. Klaus.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has welcomed the decision of Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen to hold another referendum on the Lisbon treaty after the Irish "no" in June. Speaking to reporters on Sunday Mr.Topolánek nevertheless pointed out that neither France nor the Netherlands were pushed to take the same step after they rejected the draft European constitution in referenda in 2005. It is apparent that even within the EU there are equal and more equal countries, the Czech prime minister noted.
Speaking at the weekend conference of the Civic Democratic Party at which he was re-elected chairman Mr. Topolánek urged party members to support the Lisbon treaty despite the fact that it was imperfect, because, he said, no positive changes in Europe were possible without it. The lower house of Parliament is to debate the treaty at an extraordinary session on Tuesday.
Czech film director Helena Třeštíková was awarded the European Film Award Prix Arte 2008 in the category of documentary films for her film Rene at a gala ceremony in Copenhagen on Saturday. The film, filmed over 20 years, tells the story of a man living on the edge of society. The film was rated to be of outstanding quality, both fascinating and thought-provoking.
Two spectators were killed and three others injured, including an eight-year-old girl, after a car smashed into the crowd watching a rally in Řeporyje, in the south-west suburbs of Prague on Saturday. A Peugeot driven by the Polish-British pairing of Leszek Kuzaj and Craig Parry, veered off the course on a wet road skidding on a bend and bouncing off an electricity pylon before hurtling into the watching crowd. A 26-year-old Pole, believed to be a close friend of Kuzaj, died at the scene while the second spectator died later in the day.
The coming days are expected to be partly cloudy to overcast, with day temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.