The outgoing Social Democratic cabinet passed an amendment to consumer tax rates on Wednesday. Tobacco products will be affected, with the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes costing about 15 crowns more as of 1 January 2007. The new law must still be passed by the lower house and the Senate, and signed by the President in order to become effective. Despite the rising costs of tobacco products in the Czech Republic, sales are not dropping; in 2004 a total of 22.7 million cigarette packets were sold, and in 2005 that number rose to 23.5 million.
President Vaclav Klaus' office has announced that prime minister designate Mirek Topolanek is scheduled to meet with the president on Friday at 10:00am to present his minority cabinet. The chairman of the Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, has revealed that his proposed cabinet consists of 10 Civic Democrats and five non-party members. The names for the top posts include: Petr Necas for Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Vlastimil Tlusty for Minister of Finance, Ivan Langer for Minister of the Interior, Tomas Julinek for Minister of Health, Petr Gandalovic for Minister for European Affairs, Jiri Pospisil for Minister of Justice, Martin Riman for Minister of Industry and Trade, Ales Rebicka for Minister of Transport, Bedrich Moldan for Minister of the Environment, Jiri Sedivy for Minister of Defense, Milena Vicenova for Minister of Agriculture, Alexander Vondra as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miroslava Kopicova as Minister of Education, and Margita Fuchsova as Minister of Culture.
Tomas Rosicky has been named new captain of the Czech Republic's football team. Rosicky was chosen by senior players and the Czech team's management on Tuesday evening. The 25-year-old Arsenal midfielder said it was a great honour to captain the national team, adding that their current target was qualification for the European Championships in two years' time.
Murder trial proceedings against Czech citizen Martin Novotny, 23, began in Denver, USA on Wednesday. Mr. Novotny is accused of stabbing his Brazilian girlfriend Ana Elisa Goncalves-Toledo, 24, in December 2005, after she broke off their relationship. He has confessed to the crime. If found guilty, Mr. Novotny could be sentenced to death; he is the first Czech citizen to face a possible death sentence under U.S. law.
The leading Civic Democratic candidate for the post of minister of
finance, Vlastimil Tlusty, has announced that in addition to early
elections, his party intends to prepare several reform proposals. The
Civic Democrats plan to present concrete pension and tax reform proposals
to the other parties during negotiations over support for a Civic
Democratic minority cabinet. Mr. Tlusty told reporters that the other
parties will likely "ruin everything" but that the Civic
Democrats must try to gain support for the reforms.
Meanwhile, the Social Democrat leader and outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek says that he expects to be entrusted with the task of forming a new government in October, since he does not believe that a minority Civic Democrat government can win a confidence vote in the lower house. Mr. Paroubek told reporters that in the coming weeks his party will stay in opposition, prepare for local and Senate elections and refrain from any negotiations on a future government.
The leader of the Party of European Democrats (SNK-ED), Jana Hybaskova, announced on Wednesday that her party wants to launch a constitutional appeal in order to remove the Social Democrats from power because they do not respect court rulings and endanger democracy. Ms. Hybaskova made the statements at a press conference where she aired the grievances of the European Democrats, who are owed about 15 million crowns ($681 000 USD) according to a May court ruling. The dispute over the money for campaign contributions dates back to 2002, when the European Democrats ran as an association, rather than as a party or registered coalition; it is on this count that the Ministry of Finance has refused to make the payment, despite the court ruling in favour of the European Democrats. Ms. Hybaskova says that her party was left shortchanged during the recent June 2006 elections, when it could have used this money during the campaign.
Louis Vuitton may back out of plans to hold a private party on Prague's famous Charles Bridge after the city council put its foot down about closing the bridge to the public. The news that the bridge would be closed to the public for two days because it had been leased to Louis Vuitton for a private party and fashion event has provoked criticism from all sides. It appears that the mayor of Prague 1 Vladimir Vihan approved the plan without consulting the other city councilors, on the grounds that it would be good publicity for the Czech capital. The mayor of Prague Pavel Bem has now moved to correct the decision, saying that Charles Bridge should not be closed to the public even for an hour and laying down strict conditions under which the fashion event can take place. The city hall has also offered Louis Vuitton alternative locations where it would be far less restricted.
The Civic Democratic Party, which won the largest share of the votes in June's general elections, says a minority cabinet with a restricted agenda which would prepare the country for early elections in 2007 is the best way out of the current political stalemate. The Civic Democrats are seeking support for such a cabinet from both the Green Party and the Christian Democrats. Negotiations with the Social Democrats look uncertain. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek has put an embargo on talks with the Civic Democrats until the confidence vote in Parliament, saying his party members would not so much as respond to a phone call from the rival party. Prime Minister designate Mirek Topolanek has until the end of this week to produce a new cabinet and if it is appointed by the president he must ask Parliament for a vote of confidence within 30 days.
A regional court has acquitted Bohumil Kulinsky, former choirmaster of Bambini di Praga, of sexually abusing two teenage choir girls. Kulinsky was acquitted in these two particular cases for lack of evidence. However he has been charged with abusing 47 young girls in all over a period of twenty years. If found guilty, Kulinsky could spend up to 12 years in jail.