Efforts by the ruling coalition to find a candidate for president have run into fresh difficulties, increasingly the likelihood of the current parliamentary system being replaced by a popular vote. The latest setback came on Wednesday, when deputy prime minister Pavel Rychetsky said he would no longer consider standing for the post. Mr Rychetsky said his candidature was conditional on the unanimous support of all three parties in the ruling coalition. A senior cabinet member has said the problem is with Mr Rychetsky's own party, the Social Democrats. He said Mr Rychetsky had failed to gain the support of all the party's 81 MPs and Senators.
Mr Rychetsky's announcement came less than 24 hours after two other candidates - both academics with no political background - also withdrew from the race. The ruling coalition has given itself three weeks to find a suitable candidate, ahead of a third attempt by parliament to elect a successor to President Vaclav Havel, who retired on Sunday after 13 years in the post. However, the two junior parties in the ruling coalition say they want to abandon a third attempt and begin moves to introduce a popular vote instead, something supported by a large majority of the public. Changing the Constitution to introduce direct presidential elections would take several months.
The attempt to find a replacement for Mr Havel took a bizarre turn on Wednesday, when the Czech pop singer Karel Gott announced he would stand for president if a direct vote was held. Mr Gott, who first sprung to fame in the 1960s, is known for his sugary ballads and well-publicised love affairs. A group of musicians made the announcement on his behalf at a press conference in Prague. The 63-year-old singer is currently on tour on Germany, where he is massively popular, particularly among older women.
A worker at the Spolana chemical factory north of Prague was killed on Wednesday in an accident. The 52-year-old man is said to have lost consciousness whilst cleaning a freight container used for transporting chemicals. Police are investigating the accident.
New figures show a further increase in the number of people who own mobile phones in the Czech Republic. The country's three mobile phone operators released figures on Wednesday showing there are now eight and a half million mobile phone owners in the country - out of a population of just over 10 million. The country has long been a market leader in terms of mobile penetration.
Thursday will be a cloudy and cold day, with snow forecast for many parts of the country. Temperatures in the daytime will range between -7 and -3 degrees Celsius.
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