The Chamber of Deputies, in session on Tuesday, heard a number of speeches
from MPs ahead of a confidence vote on the new coalition government led by
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross. Earlier in the session on Tuesday the
prime minister spoke at length about the goals of his government, saying
it would make social issues a priority.
However, the opposition Civic Democrats, expressed their dissatisfaction with the new government, warning it would lead the country to stagnation and debt. None among the official opposition, neither the Civic Democrats, nor the Communists, are expected to vote in the cabinet's favour.
Finally, because the government enjoys just the slimmest of majorities - 101 votes in a 200 member parliament - two ill MPs were required to leave hospitals on Tuesday to make an appearance in the chamber, in order to ensure the new government was in postion to gain enough support.
The confidence vote is expected later on Tuesday night.
Ahead of the Czech National Bank's meeting later this week, Finance
Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Tuesday the National Bank should not
rush an interest rate hike. It has been widely expected the bank will
raise rates by a quarter point to 2.50 percent. But, the finance
minister said he had a more optimistic prognosis for inflation in 2004
and 2005, expecting the inflation rate would stay below 3.00 percent.
The Czech National Bank is an independent institution on which the government wields only limited influence. Nevertheless, on Tuesday Minister Sobotka suggested the bank should "act responsibly" in lieu of the cabinet's plan to kick-off high growth.
Czech football star Pavel Nedved, who plays in the Italian league for Juventus, is expected to return to play for the first time since he suffered a knee injury at Euro 2004 in July. Nedved's team currently faces the Swedish side Djurgarden in the prestigious Champions League. Two weeks ago Juventus was only able to eke-out a 2:2 tie against the Swedish team, so it is expected his return could provide his team with a necessary boost.
Members of the country's largest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, have decided to take legal action against government MP Zdenek Koristka for slander. The party made the announcement on Tuesday following the MP's actions last week, when he claimed an unnamed member of the Civic Democratic Party had offered him a bribe of 10 million crowns - or 300, 000 euros - to help sink the country's new government in Tuesday's confidence vote. The case is now the matter of a police investigation - additional details have not been released.
Thousands of Czechs - including the current line-up for the Czech
national hockey team - paid final respects to the late Ivan Hlinka on
Tuesday at Prague's Zofin Palace. The charismatic Hlinka, the coach who
led the Czech Olympic ice hockey team to victory in Nagano, Japan, in
1998, was killed in a car accident last Monday.
This Tuesday he remembered by his wife, mother, son, and former team mates as well as current players.
Ivan Hlinka was just 54 when he died.
The Speaker of the Lower House Lubomir Zaoralek has called a meeting of
all parliamentary party leaders, ahead of Tuesday's debate. They are to
discuss a scandal which erupted in Parliament last week when Freedom
Union deputy Zdenek Koristka accused the opposition Civic Democrats of
offering him a ten million crown bribe to bring down the government in
Mr. Koristka said later he was not the only one approached and he urged other MPs with similar experiences to speak out. The incident has resulted in counter accusations levelled against the Social Democrats, and the Civic Democrats say they will file charges against Mr. Koristka for allegedly spreading lies about them. The Speaker of Parliament said the accusations were a serious blow to Parliament's credibility and should be thoroughly investigated.
The police have arrested a youth who beat up a doctor called out to attend to an intoxicated man. The emergency medical team was called out to attend to a man who had allegedly collapsed but when they arrived on the spot they found a group of highly intoxicated men - with the alleged patient being merely very drunk. When they were getting back into the ambulance one of the men - a 19 year old - attacked the doctor and smashed the ambulance window. A night watchman who arrived on the scene and attempted to help was injured in the face by bits of flying glass. The doctor suffered concussion and a broken nose. There have been several cases of doctors and ambulance personnel attacked by drunks since the beginning of this year.
The Lower House of Parliament is to meet on Tuesday to discuss the government's policy agenda, ahead of a confidence vote in the new administration. Since neither of the two opposition parties are expected to support the government, the coalition will have to rely entirely on its own deputies. Although at present two Social Democrat deputies are in hospital they are expected to be in their benches for the vote itself. With all coalition deputies present the new administration has a slim majority of 101 votes in the 200 seat Lower House.
Ales Sulc, the current head of the interior ministry's security department, is to replace Pavel Pribyl as head of the government's office. Pribyl was forced to resign from the post due to growing public pressure when it emerged that in 1989 he commanded a riot police unit sent to break up anti-communist protests in the streets of Prague. Ales Sulc is a former dissident and signatory of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto. Mr. Sulc has confirmed that he accepted the Prime Minister's offer on Friday. His appointment has yet to be approved by the government.
President Klaus has vetoed a bill on the European arrest warrant. The bill would have made it possible for Czech citizens to be extradited to other EU countries to face trial. The President said that to pass such a bill would mean to hand over a part of the country's sovereignty and its right to protect its citizens. The bill was introduced in some EU states for the first time last year. It is designed to tackle the problem of cross-border crime within the European Union.