The Chamber of Deputies has rejected a two-year-old proposal to amend the constitution to allow direct presidential elections, something that many MPs themselves support. One reason why the amendment failed to pass, however, is because divisions remain over specific details, for example, the number of rounds direct presidential elections should take. Under the current system the Czech president is elected every five years by a special joint-session of both houses of Parliament: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Surveys have repeatedly shown that the Czechs themselves would prefer one ballot - one vote in electing the president.
Railway workers unions have called off the possibility of a general strike for at least the next one hundred days as they allow new management at Czech Railways to consider their proposals. The unions have expressed concern - and threatened to strike - over the possibility of excessive lay-offs in line with Czech Railway's long-term business plans. An estimated 6,000 employees are expected to lose their jobs this year, the same number as in 2004. Overall Czech Railways employs close to 70, 000 people.
The Lower House passed a bill amendment put forward by the opposition Civic Democrats on Wednesday on the joining of the military secret services and a strengthening of parliamentary control. The amendment proposes the formal unification of military secret services under the moniker "Military Intelligence" which would include both the intelligence and counter-intelligence branches. Until now Parliament only had overview over the latter. The amendment also proposes creating a new seven-member parliamentary commission to oversee the joint-service.
On Wednesday the Lower House rejected a draft amendment that would have reopened the door on cosmetics testing on animals. The draft, proposed by the government and voted down by a majority of MPs, had drawn criticism among a number of Czechs, many of whom wrote protest letters to members of Parliament. The amendment will still be evaluated by the Senate and by the president. The testing of cosmetics on laboratory animals has been banned in the Czech Republic since March 2004.
A bill allowing the issuing of more than 72 billion crowns, (the equivalent of over 3 billion U.S. dollars), has been passed by the Lower House in bonds to help cover this year's state budget deficit. Bonds are likely to be issued on both domestic and foreign markets, while the remainder of the deficit, some 11 billion crowns, is to be covered by long-term loans from the European investment bank. Before the law takes effect it must first be signed by President Vaclav Klaus.
The Charter 77 Foundation is to present a symbolic award to Czechoslovak Germans who tried to defend Czechoslovakia against the Nazis during World War II. Speaking in Berlin on Tuesday, Foundation member and deputy chairman of the Czech Senate Petr Pithart said it was time for the Czech state too to remember the contribution made by loyal Czechoslovak Germans. The Frantisek Kriegel Award is to be officially presented during a ceremony at Prague's Clementinum on Wednesday evening.
Czech police have arrested five men for breaking into an automatic teller machine in the town of Mlada Boleslav, east of Prague. All five are between the ages of 27 and 37 and are said to come from former Yugoslavia. The arrest took place at the weekend when the thieving gang was caught with 1.5 million crowns in hand. In all they are suspected of several break-ins and of having stolen up to 15 million crowns.
The Czech Republic beat Belarus 5:1 in their last game in the group phases of the Ice Hockey World Championships in Vienna on Tuesday evening. On Thursday the Czechs play the USA in the quarter-finals of the competition. It will be a chance for revenge for the Czech team, who were knocked out by the Americans at the same stage of the competition in Prague last year.
Thursday should be sunny with daytime temperatures of around 19 degrees Celsius.
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