The former prime minister Vaclav Klaus has been elected Czech president. In a third round of voting, Mr. Klaus received 142 votes in the two houses of Parliament. His sole rival for the post, the coalition's candidate Jan Sokol, received 124 votes altogether. Although the vote was anonymous it is believed that Mr. Klaus won with the help of communist votes and votes from members of the governing coalition who failed to support their own candidate. Political analysts predict that Mr. Sokol's defeat in the elections will seriously weaken the centre right governing coalition and undermine the position of Social Democrat leader and prime minister Vladimir Spidla. According to the CTK press agency Prime Minister Spidla reacted angrily to the lack of discipline within his party's ranks in the course of the afternoon, threatening a Cabinet reshuffle or even a government demise if the Social Democrats failed to stand as one man behind coalition candidate Jan Sokol. After the official results were announced Prime Minister Spidla congratulated Vaclav Klaus and said that a government demise was not on the agenda. Mr. Klaus likewise received congratulations from his predecessor Vaclav Havel. In his first statement for the media Mr. Klaus said he intended to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
Police are investigating the cause of a railway accident in which a passenger train ploughed into a stationary freight train in the early hours of Friday. Although the passenger train was derailed in the accident no one is reported hurt. The damage has been assessed at 750 thousand Czech crowns. This is the third train collision in the past fortnight in the Pardubice region in east Bohemia and the police say they have reason to suspect foul play.
Prague airport and the Prague subway have received more anonymous bomb threats. Prague's Ruzyne Airport had to be evacuated late on Thursday night and a stretch of the Prague subway was closed down for several hours on Friday morning as police combed the premises. No bomb was found in either location. Traffic at Prague's main international airport has already been disrupted eight times this year by anonymous bomb threats, resulting in huge losses. Only last week a youth received a three year jail sentence for making such calls.
The Czech Lower House has approved a proposal, put forward by the Christian Democratic Party, partially banning tobacco advertising in public places. If approved by the Senate, billboards advertising cigarettes would disappear from Czech streets as of July 1st, 2004. However tobacco companies will be allowed to sponsor Czech motor racing until 2007.
The weekend should be partly cloudy to overcast with day temperatures between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius.
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