President Vaclav Klaus accepted the resignation of Stanislav Gross as
Prime Minister on Monday, ending weeks of political crisis. The Cabinet
was also dissolved, as is required by the Constitution, when a prime
minister resigns. Before tendering his official resignation, Mr Gross'
party, the Social Democrats, and their coalition partners, the Christian
Democrats and the Freedom Union, signed a deal for a new government. The
incoming prime minister is Jiri Paroubek, a vice chairman of the Social
Democratic party who was the Regional Development Minister in the previous
Stanislav Gross, a former interior minister, had led the government since last July; he remains Social Democrat party chairman. Calls for Mr Gross' resignation came after media coverage revealed that he had spent more to buy his Prague apartment than he could have afforded on a government salary. Mr Gross had offered several, contradictory explanations of how he had paid for the apartment. The controversial business dealings of his wife had also become a political issue.
President Vaclav Klaus said on Monday after naming Jiri Paroubek to his new post that he expects the lower house of Parliament to hold a vote of confidence on the new government as soon as possible. The incoming prime minister has said that his government - as per agreement of the three coalition parties - will focus on pushing through pension reform, lower taxes on employees, new bankruptcy and conflict-of-interest laws, and the 2006 state budget. Another top priority is the ratification of the draft European Constitution.
On Sunday outgoing Prime Minister Stanislav Gross sided with two
leading members of the European Parliament over a row that erupted
between the two and President Vaclav Klaus earlier in the week. The two
EP members, EP vice-president Alejo Vidal-Quadras and EP Constitutional
Committee head Jo Leinen, drew fire from Mr Klaus after they criticised
him for his stance on the EU constitutional treaty. On Sunday, the
Czech prime minister backed their argument by saying that some of the
statements Mr Klaus had made about the treaty were "misleading".
The outgoing prime minister also criticised the president for his reaction in the row, which he sees as inappropriate. Mr Klaus has said he took offence to the MEP's words as the head of state of a sovereign EU country. He is currently expecting to receive an official apology.
Outgoing Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said he will set all personal ambitions aside in order to help the Social Democratic Party prepare for national elections next year. On Sunday Mr Gross suggested the Social Democrats needed to come up with an attractive, perhaps new, list of candidates. The outgoing prime minister made the comments on a popular news talk show. During the broadcast Mr Gross rejected any suggestion he might step down as chairman of the Social Democrats, saying that he wanted his party to unite. In his words holding an extraordinary party congress now would be political "suicide".
Liverpool footballer Milan Baros looks doubtful to start in the
upcoming semi-final Champions League match: on Wednesday his side faces
off against London's Chelsea. Baros may miss the first-leg showdown
after he suffered a knee-injury in the English Premiership at the
weekend. He limped off in the 37th minute in a rough-and-tumble match
against Crystal Palace.
Afterwards, Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez defended Baros by indicating the striker had been the target of particularly physical play.
Sunday saw the continuation of a two-day conference in Prague attended
by communist representatives from 32 countries, including China. The
conference, attended by Czech Communist Party leader Miroslav
Grebenicek, has drawn criticism from several groups, including the
Confederation for Political Prisoners. A handful of protestors also
demonstrated outside the conference venue at the weekend.
In the Czech Republic the Communists have been largely frozen out of top political decision-making since 1989, although they finished third in the country's last elections.
Melting snow has led to a body being uncovered in North Bohemia's Krkonose Mountains. Police at the scene, some 12 kilometres from the ski resort of Spinleruv Mlyn, have not ruled out foul play. They say the person found was likely to have died before first snowfall last year. Dressed for autumn weather, the body has apparently lain there several months.
Speaking on the same programme Communist Deputy Chairman Vojtech Filip outlined conditions under which the Communist Party might back the new government in a confidence vote. He said the Communists will reconsider their stance if the new coalition ties the vote to proposed legislation on the "declaration of property", a bill monitoring property ownership. Outgoing Prime Minister Stanislav Gross indicated that some form of declaration of property will be part of proposed legislation on "the conflict of interest". It is not clear whether such legislation would apply retroactively. Mr Gross stressed the new law would have to stand up in Constitutional Court.
Members of the Association for Property Owners have revealed they are planning to sue the Czech Republic for hundreds of millions of crowns in "moral damages" at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The association is citing contention with the country's policy of regulated rent. Incoming prime minister and - until now - Minister for Local Development Jiri Paroubek has admitted the association could win its case if the state were doing nothing to improve the situation. However, he indicated the government has been preparing new legislation. The legislation proposes the country entering full deregulation in six to eight years' time.
There has been some speculation in the Czech daily Sport that the outgoing prime minister could now run for the post of president of the Czech Republic's Football Federation. The daily Sport wrote on Saturday that Mr Gross' name had been put forward by a number of federation members. But, the outgoing prime minister has already reacted, rejecting as "foolish" the idea he might run for the post.
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