Former prime minister Vaclav Klaus has been sworn in as the second president in the history of the Czech Republic, and the tenth head of state since 1918 when independent Czechoslovakia was founded. The inauguration ceremony took place at Prague Castle on Friday, with Mr Klaus take the presidential oath shortly after two o'clock local time. In attendance were members of parliament, members of diplomatic circles, foreign guests, as well as former president Vaclav Havel, and the former first lady Dagmar Havlova.
After his swearing in Friday Mr Klaus gave a short inauguration speech in which he outlined some principles of his new presidency, saying he would seek to be an active president, laying special emphasis on the presidential role of representing the country abroad, improving relations with the Czech Republic's immediate neighbours, and stressing the importance of the Czech Republic's integration to the European Union. Also mentioned was the importance of renewing and broadening the publics' general trust in party politics at home.
Mr Klaus' inauguration sees him complete a political triumph, succeeding long-time former rival, the former dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel, who stepped down as president February 2nd, after thirteen years in office. Exactly one week ago Mr Klaus narrowly won the presidency in a special joint-session of parliament, ending weeks of uncertainty about the future of the presidency after two previous election attempts ended in stalemate. Mr Klaus' presidential term will now last till March 2008.
In keeping with a long-held tradition in Bohemia a twenty-one gun salute was fired on Prague's Petrin Hill Friday, crowning the swearing in of the country's new president. Preceding his inauguration Mr Klaus upheld another tradition, laying a wreath at the memorial of the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. This Friday marks the 153rd anniversary of T.G. Masaryk's birth.
Politicians' reactions to President Klaus' inauguration speech on Friday were largely favourable, with many saying they believed Mr Klaus would hold to presidential promises made in his inauguration speech. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla reacted positively saying the new president had 'a very clear idea of the demands of his office'. Communist representatives, on the other hand, were more careful in characterising Mr Klaus' words, with Communist representative Jiri Dolejs suggesting it was wiser to 'judge people by their deeds', and that his party would 'wait and see' just how Mr Klaus would acknowledge the Communist Party; his predecessor, Vaclav Havel, refused to engage the communists during thirteen years in office. Finally, Petr Mares of the Freedom Union, a junior partner in the country's ruling coalition, said he felt Mr Klaus should have reflected more on the legacy of his predecessor Vaclav Havel. However, he added that his statement was not intended as criticism.
Prague police say they will lead an investigation into steps taken by a local officer with regards to an incident at a Prague metro station Wednesday, in which two men, one African and one Czech, were beaten by skinheads in what was apparently a racially-motivated attack. According to reports, the government's human rights comissioner Jan Jarab was beaten after he attempted to intervene on the African man's behalf. Dozens of people reportedly witnessed the incident but no one came to either man's assistance. Afterwards, Mr Jarab, who suffered a concussion in the incident, sought-out a local officer. But, in his words, the officer did not react to his request to call police and merely told him to visit nearby police headquarters. Mr. Jarab expressed shock over the fact that the incident is not being treated as a crime, but only as a misdemeanor.
Czech tennis player Bohdan Ulihrach admitted Friday in Prague that he has been suspended for two years from tournament tennis for a doping offence. Ulihrach, who is ranked 101 in the world, tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone at an ATP tournament in Moscow, in October 2002. The 28-year-old confirmed that a smaple had tested positive but that he has lodged an appeal against the sentence. Renowned Czech sports physician Pavel Kolar called the results "illogical" as Ulihrach had tested negative shortly before, as well as after the Moscow tournament.
Saturday will see cloudy skies with a likeliness of showers and day-time temperatures of about 5 degrees Celsius.
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