The central committee of the main opposition Communist Party accepted the resignation of its long-time leader Miroslav Grebenicek on Saturday and elected deputy chairman Vojtech Filip as his replacement, by a wide margin. Grebenicek had led the largely unreformed Communist Party since 1993. He had announced his intention to step down several weeks ago, citing his displeasure with the centrist direction he believed the party programme had taken. Vojtech Filip, the newly named Communist Party leader, is seen as a pragmatic politician whose primary goal is to end the party's isolation in parliament. He received 63 votes, more than three times that of his only rival, who Vaclav Exner, ho got 20 votes. Outgoing 'hard-line' chairman Grebenicek left the central committee meeting before his successor was named and refused to comment on the elections to journalists waiting outside Communist Party headquarters.
Former prime minister Stanislav Gross, who resigned as chairman of the centre-left Social Democratic party on Friday, will begin work as a trainee lawyer in a private firm starting this Monday. At age 35, Gross was the youngest prime minister in Europe until he stepped down this April. He had been under heavy pressure to resign following questions about his personal finances, including how he paid for his luxury Prague apartment. In an interview for the Pravo daily published on Saturday, Gross said that in private practice, he would avoid legal cases relating to serious financial or organised crime. He said that as a former interior minister, he considered it "unethical" to handle such cases.
In other political news, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has pledged to help Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and his party, the Social Democrats, ahead of the June 2006 elections. Paroubek told journalists after dining with Schroeder in Prague on Friday evening that his German counterpart vowed to dispatch several members of his election team to Prague before Christmas to help the centre-left Social Democrats prepare election tactics. Schroeder was in Prague for a brief unofficial visit late Friday and had dinner with Paroubek at a luxurious French restaurant in the city centre.
A freight train driver died on Friday shortly before midnight when he crashed into parked train outside the Zelenice na Mostecku railway station near the town of Most, in northern Bohemia. Thirteen carriages and one engine derailed in the crash and local rail traffic was suspended on Saturday. The driver, who worked for the private company Unipetrol Doprava, failed to notice a stop signal, a Czech Railways spokesman said.
The Czech national football team coach Karel Bruckner has named a 20-man squad for their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. The most notable absentee is striker Jan Koller, who has a knee ligament injury which is likely to keep him sidelined for around six months. He will be replaced by Jiri Stajner, who last played for the Czech team in the spring of 2004. The Czechs face the Netherlands at home on October 8 before travelling to play Finland on October 12. The line-up includes goalie Petr Cech, Milan Baros, Karel Poborsky, Vladimir Smicer and Tomas Rosicky.
Light rain and daytime temperatures in the mid teens is the forecast for the coming days.
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