Police have called off extra security teams at church schools in Prague: those had been under tight scrutiny since last week, after police received an anonymous bomb threat. A spokesman made the announcement on Wednesday, saying that the schools would still be checked by regular patrols. Last Thursday experts labelled as "very serious" a bomb threat targeting the capital's forty or so church schools leading to heightened security measures and extensive searches at school premises. Many parents were warned ahead of time to keep their children at home. No evidence of a bomb was uncovered.
In related news, Mr Paroubek admitted in an on-line interview on Wednesday that following Friday's vote the Social Democrats will be tough in the opposition in the lower house. In the interview Mr Paroubek repeated earlier criticisms but also extended blame to the country's president, Vaclav Klaus. Mr Paroubek criticised the president for twice naming Mirek Topolanek prime minister in the efforts to form a government, one that Mr Paroubek has said, following Tuesday's events, would now be founded on blackmail and betrayal. He said that he would recommend Social Democrat deputies not to back Mr Klaus in his expected bid for re-election next year.
The Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova has stated that the government has now approved the deployment of the 6th field hospital to Afghanistan. The unit will operate at Kabul airport. If both houses of parliament approve the mission, hospital personnel will leave for Afghanistan in March. The sending of the hospital unit with around 70 personnel for one year will cost 150 million crowns (the equivalent of around 7 million US dollars) to be covered by the Defence Ministry budget. The ministry says that NATO could defray a part of the costs. The mission to Afghanistan was requested by NATO last year. The unit has been deployed in that country before and has also operated in Iraq.
The Civic Democratic Party's executive body has assessed a report by Prime
Minister Mirek Topolanek outlining preparation for Friday's confidence vote
in the Chamber of Deputies, and praised steps taken by party negotiators.
The news was made public Wednesday evening by the party's first deputy
chairman Pavel Bem. On Wednesday the body also approved the policy
statement of the coalition government, including a number of last-minute
changes, concessions to the two rebel Social Democrat MPs who have agreed
to leave the chamber during Friday's vote.
The development marks a turn-around in fortunes for the prime minister who faced criticism from some Civic Democrats in recent weeks. Mr Bem stressed that Mr Topolanek had broad support from the party leadership. He himself was one of Mr Topolanek's more prominent critics concerning efforts at forming a coalition government with the Christian Democrats and the Greens. On Wednesday Mr Bem expressed confidence all Civic Democrats would vote in favour of the centre-right cabinet during Friday's vote.
Poll: Bem, Parkanova most popular politicians
A new poll released by the STEM agency has suggested that Prague Mayor Pavel Bem and Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova currently top public popularity. Mrs Parkanova and Mr Bem were rated favourably by 63 percent of those queried, followed by Jiri Cunek, the head of the Christian Democratic Party, and Martin Bursik, leader of the Greens. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was seventh on the list with 38 percent favourability, while Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek was tenth. Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip rounded out the bottom of the list, finishing twelfth.
The Social Democratic Party has called on two rebel MPs to give up their
mandates in the lower house. The party took the step a day after deputies
Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka confirmed they would allow the country's
newly-appointed government a chance of winning Friday's confidence vote.
The deputies appeared alongside the prime minister in a surprise press
conference on Tuesday, saying that their main motive was to bring an end
to the country's prolonged political crisis. Both confirmed they would
absent themselves from Friday's vote, theoretically tipping the scales in
the government's favour. In return they gained a number of concessions
including a promise by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek that his cabinet
would consult with the opposition on major reforms.
The Social Democrats immediately expressed anger over the developments: party leader Jiri Paroubek has called the men "traitors" and warned his party would file lawsuits against them on the suspicion of corruption.
The AFP news agency has reported that a court in the region of Olomouc
has confirmed that a Czech hospital in the east of the country should
apologise to a 24-year-old Romany woman for having sterilized her
without her consent. At the same time, the court also ruled she is not
entitled to compensation. The landmark case is the first of around
eighty complaints submitted by Romany women who say they were
sterilized without permission. The latest ruling confirmed an earlier
decision in November against which both the hospital and the Romany
woman, Helena Ferencikova, appealed.
Mrs Ferencikova was sterilized in 2001 at a hospital without consent after giving birth to her second child. Hospital doctors said that it carried out in the interests of the patient's health and that she had signed a letter of agreement. But, Mrs Ferencikova has said she was only given the document to sign when she was already in the throes of birthing pains.
She had been asking for compensation of one million crowns, (the equivalent of around 45,000 US dollars). The court has sought guidance from the Supreme Court on whether or not she may entitled to financial compensation for moral damages suffered.
The session of the lower house formally lasted just fifteen minutes on
Wednesday with Social Democrat MP Miloslav Vlcek staying on for the
time being as the chamber's speaker. Originally, the Social Democrats
had hoped to pave the way for Mr Vlcek's resignation and subsequent
re-election ahead of Friday's confidence vote. Mr Vlcek is bound by a
public promise he made to step down ahead of a possible third attempt
to form a government. His subsequent re-election would have guaranteed
that as speaker he would have been responsible for appointing the next
prime minister designate, in the event that the government's failed to
secure a majority.
As it stands now the current coalition led by the Civic Democrats is now expected to win its confidence vote on Friday. It is unclear how long Mr Vlcek will now remain as speaker of the lower house, or whether the Social Democrats will push for their leader Jiri Paroubek to replace him.
Young Czech tennis star Nicole Vaidisova has made it through to the
third round at the Australian Open, easily defeating Venezuelan player
Milagros Sequera (ranked 95th in the world)6:2, 6:1. The match lasted
less than one hour.
In the men's competition Radek Stepanek was two sets to nil down before he battled back against fellow compatriot Lukas Dlouhy to make it to the third round.
A Czech court has ordered a fitness club to pay 70 000 crowns in damages and apologize to a 43 year old homosexual man whom it failed to employ because of his sexual orientation. Lech Sydor said the fitness club promised him the job but backed out when it emerged that he was gay. In a private interview with Sydor the club's manager allegedly told him he could not risk having a gay masseur making passes at the club's male clients. In the court hearings the manager claimed he had found a more-qualified candidate for the position. This is the first time that a Czech court has recognized discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference.
Social Democrat deputy Frantisek Vnoucek resigned on Tuesday for health reasons. Mr. Vnoucek whose health has been very poor in recent weeks said he did not want to risk damaging his party by his absence in the upcoming confidence vote. The ailing deputy is to be replaced by Zdenek Kotous, who is expected to take his deputy's oath on Wednesday.
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