If general elections were held this month the Civic Democrats would turn out to be the clear winners with 35.1 percent of votes, results of a new poll suggest. The poll conducted by the STEM agency puts the Social Democrats second with a mere 20.7 percent, followed by the Communists with 10.9 percent, the Greens with 9.4 percent, and the Christian Democrats with 7.5 percent of votes. The results indicate a significant drop in support for the Social Democrats, who - with 32.3 percent of votes - were only three percent behind the Civic Democrats when the country went to the polls in June.
A court in the northern town of Usti nad Labem has approved a proposal by the outgoing minority Civic Democrat government to seize the property of the multi-million crown Setuza food and chemicals conglomerate. Media reports say the government suspects that the recent sale of Setuza, with which the company rid itself of an almost 4 billion crown debt (around 178 million US dollars) to the state, in reality never took place. The government fears that Setuza is still controlled by its former owners, who are linked to a number of controversial businessmen, including Tomas Pitr who was found guilty of large-scale tax fraud.
A group of Roma rent defaulters have filed a criminal complaint against town councillors in the eastern Moravian town of Vsetin. The Romanies were recently evicted from their homes in Vsetin and re-housed in a complex of portacabins some 70 kilometres away. The case gained public attention when Vsetin mayor Jiri Cunek described the eviction as the "cleaning of an ulcer" in the town centre. Mr Cunek, who has in the meantime been elected senator, could face up to five charges - among them abuse of power, blackmail, and fraud.
Unconfirmed reports say that the leaders of the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene have already come to agreement over who will fill ministerial posts in a possible coalition government. The Social Democrats no longer object to Civic Democrat interior minister Ivan Langer keeping his post, while the Civic Democrats are reportedly willing to give up the post of Foreign Minister - currently held by Alexander Vondra - to former Social Democrat lower house speaker Lubomir Zaoralek.
Pope Benedict XVI will not visit the Czech Republic next year as planned. The Pope's office has not accepted a personal invitation extended to him by Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk on the grounds that the proposed date is unsuitable, Lidovy Noviny newspaper reports. The Czech Bishops Conference has confirmed the information but declined to comment. The Czech Catholic Church will propose another term for the Pope's visit.
The number of Czechs in favour of early elections has risen from 18 to 28 percent in the last three months, results of an opinion poll suggest. The Factum Invenio poll also indicates that almost 25 percent of Czechs would like neither Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek nor Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek to lead the next government. The number of respondents who could not name a prime minister of their choice, though, has risen from 27 percent in August to 41 percent in November.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek visited President Vaclav Klaus on Wednesday to inform him on the latest developments in ongoing government negotiations. In a briefing after the meeting the two politicians said talks on forming a new government are making headway but did not say what kind of a new government they had in mind. Mr Topolanek, who is the leader of the centre right Civic Democrats, reiterated that more concrete information would be revealed after his party's national conference this weekend.
Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek plans to bring charges of libel against a former head of the VZP health insurance company. In Wednesday's issue of business newspaper Hospodarske Noviny, Jirina Musilkova says Mr Paroubek tried to pressure her into resigning when she headed the state's biggest health insurer in November last year, eleven days after the heavily indebted VZP was put under forced administration.
President Klaus is to meet with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek on Wednesday to discuss an emerging agreement on a new government. There was a breakthrough in talks on Monday when the leaders of the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene each made concessions in order to facilitate an agreement. Mirek Topolanek, leader of the centre right Civic Democrats, dropped his demand for early elections in 2007, while Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek no longer insists on a two party agreement and is willing to discuss a government of four parties in which he himself would have no part.
Four candidates have been nominated for the post of Ombudsman to replace Otakar Motejl whose term in office expires in December. Mr. Motejl is up for re-appointment for another six year term. The other nominees are the former rector of the Czech Technical University in Prague Jiri Witzany, human rights activist John Bok and senator Jitka Seitlova. The Ombudsman is elected by the lower house from candidates put forward by the president and the Senate.
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