Members of the extra-parliamentary party Citizens' Rights - Zemanites have elected Jan Veleba as their new chairman. Delegates expressed the hope that Mr Veleba, a senator and former head of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, would turn around the party's flagging fortunes. The Zemanites, who share close political ties with President Miloš Zeman, suffered a debacle in last year's national election, receiving only 1.51 percent of the vote. Speaking on Saturday, Mr Veleba echoed earlier words by the president supporting the creation of a Scandinavian-style social state. Citizens' Rights have taken part in two general elections, but failed both times to make it into the lower house.
In related news, Mr Veleba indicated that - going forward - his party will drop the word 'Zemanites' from its name, becoming known only as Citizens' Rights. The party was originally largely founded to help Miloš Zeman re-enter the political arena, which proved successful. But now, the new chairman said, the party needed to 'emancipate itself' and to work on its own image. The president will stay on as honorary chairman. Mr Veleba confirmed the party was not running in the upcoming European elections but would focus instead on communal elections in the Czech Republic this autumn.
Ethnic Czechs living in the western Ukrainian province of Volhynia have again petitioned the Czech state to help them return home. They cited growing fears of a possible military conflict between Ukraine and Russia and of a deterioration of security, writes news website iDnes. This time, representatives of the community bypassed the government and wrote directly to the president. The Foreign Ministry rejected their first appeal based on findings by embassy officials in the field reporting local Czechs were in no immediate danger. Mr Zaorálek said at the time that Czech expats in Ukraine and elsewhere could apply for fast-track permanent residency permits, and move to the Czech Republic on their own. In their second petition, the Volhynia Czechs accused the Foreign Minister of misreading the situation.
Acclaimed Czech photographer Oldřich Škácha has died at the age of 72 after suffering from a long illness. Škácha, who worked in the past for numerous Czech magazines and Prague's Barrandov studios, was a member of the dissident movement in the 1970s and a signatory of Charter 77. He was also a long-time photographer of Václav Havel. Mr Škácha was the author of numerous important photographs including that of demonstrators carrying a blood-stained Czech flag after the Soviet-led invasion in 1968 or of Václav Havel writing his famous letter to Communist leader Gustav Husák.
Thousands of visitors came out on Saturday for the official start of Prague Zoo's 83rd season which was launched to the sound of African drums. Members of Prague's respected Dejvice Theatre also performed. The Czech News Agency reported that almost all parking spots on site were taken by 11 AM and that buses to the zoo were often full. In 2013, the popular zoo attracted a total of 1.1 million visitors - roughly the equivalent of the population of Prague.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych forfeited his semifinal match against Rafael Nadal at the Miami Masters. The world No. 5 took the decision after suffering stomach problems. The Czech had not won against Nadal in their last sixteen matches.
The Czech Republic switches from Central European Time (CET) to Central European Summer Time (CEST) at 2 AM on Sunday, along with the rest of Europe. CEST lasts until October. In the Czech Republic, CEST was first introduced during WWI and then again during WWII. It was abolished in 1949 but brought back by the communist authorities in 1979.
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