The atmosphere in the governing coalition has been described as relatively calm but tense, following several hectic days during which the rift between the ruling Social Democrats and their smaller coalition partner the Christian Democrats was deepening. Informal consultations are being held and the number of options for the future political arrangement is rising. It is not yet clear whether the Social Democrat presidium will hold a meeting on Saturday and whether the party's acting chairman and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross will call a coalition meeting prior to the fundamental decision on the future of his cabinet.
After holding a series of high-level talks with political leaders on Thursday, President Vaclav Klaus urged a speedy resolution of the Czech government crisis. On Friday President Klaus said the natural alternative would be early elections.
The crisis in the governing coalition broke out recently over the Prime Minister's private finances and the business activities of his wife. A reconciliation attempt between the two feuding parties in government broke down on Wednesday, with both sides reiterating their earlier positions. The Prime Minister Stanislav Gross said that if the Christian Democrats could not accept him as head of cabinet, their three ministers should resign from office. The Christian Democrats say the Prime Minister himself should resign.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek said the Civic Democrats would only support a solution leading to early elections. The party says that whatever the outcome of the government crisis, barring early elections, the cabinet should ask for a vote of confidence in parliament. Otherwise the Civic Democrats will initiate a vote of no-confidence.
The Czech Republic has been marking the 57th anniversary of the communist takeover in 1948. A small crowd gathered in the Prague district of Mala Strana on Friday to commemorate a university student march to Prague Castle in which the students expressed support to then president Edvard Benes on February 25, 1948. The participants of the 1948 march were persecuted under the communist regime, which lasted in the country for forty years following the coup in February 1948.
The Italian internet provider Tiscali has been allowed to join a consortium bidding for a 51.1 percent state-held stake in dominant Czech land-line operator Cesky Telecom, a ministerial privatisation commission announced on Friday. Tiscali will join the Czech-Slovak PPF/J and T/InWay consortium, one of five bidders for the state's stake. The government launched a tender for Cesky Telecom last December and said financial investors would not be allowed to bid directly but would have to team up with telecoms companies.
Two Czechs have been expelled from Slovakia after being arrested in the capital Bratislava on Thursday for burning an American flag during a speech by the US President George Bush. Three Slovaks were also taken into custody for shouting obscenities at the US President. None of the arrested persons has been accused of crime and their behaviour was qualified as a misdemeanour. Mr Bush received a mainly enthusiastic welcome from Bratislava inhabitants. Over 4,000 people assembled on the town's main square to hear him speak.
The weekend should be sunny with occasional snowfalls and daytime temperatures falling to lows of minus 7 degrees Celsius.
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