The Lower House of Czech parliament passed an amendment to the electoral law on Friday, which will introduce elements of the first-past-the-post system for general elections and will therefore work to the advantage of larger parties. Out of 163 MPs present, 117 voted in favour of the amendment, 45 voted against and 1 abstained from voting. The Communist MPs, who have 24 seats in the Lower house, did not take part in the vote at all, saying they were not going to endorse a system which would practically mean the dictatorship of only two political parties. Smaller parties will have to tackle the problem of a multiplied quorum for making it to parliament: for instance the Four Party Alliance of smaller right-of-centre parties will have to receive 20 percent support of the vote, as each party needs 5 percent support to obtain seats in parliament. Although the majority of Social Democrat MPs voted in favour of the new law, the party's deputy chairwoman, Betra Buzkova said she did not support her colleagues, as she saw it as unjust that the number of votes for a certain party would not correspond to the number of its parliamentary seats.
After a meeting with president Vaclav Havel, Minister of the Interior Stanislav Gross told journalists that although he would get only one third of the sum he had asked for, the security measures during the annual session of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank session will be adequate. Originally, Gross counted on 240 million Czech crowns - that's 800 thousand dollars - from the treasury. Some 18 thousand official guests are expected to arrive for the IMF/World bank session in Prague, and the police expect some 20 thousand anti-globalization activists coming to Prague from around the country and from abroad. The president and minister Gross then visited the national anti-drug centre of the Police department for fighting the organized crime.
Foreign and Czech diplomats and experts from organizations such as The Human Rights Watch, Memorial and People in Need discussed war crimes and human rights violations in Chechnya at Prague Castle on Friday. The public hearing heard eye witness accounts of the atrocities committed in the troubled region by the Russian Federal army. The main aim of the hearing is to find a way to punish the main culprits, and how to prevent further human rights violations, especially of Chechen civilians. An amateur film was screened which the Chechens had shot in February in Grozny, where, according to a Human Rights Watch member, 80 civilians were massacred by Russian soldiers. Also present at the debate was president Vaclav Havel, who has been closely watching the developments in Chechnya and who favoured Russia's expulsion from the Council of Europe.
Saturday will se a mostly cloudy day with rain showers and thunderstorms in places and daytime highs between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius.
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