President Vaclav Klaus appointed 22 trainee judges to judicial posts on Monday even though some of them were under 30 years of age. In the past, the president has refused to appoint judges who were not yet 30, a stance which was criticised by the Ministry of Justice and also resulted in a number of lawsuits being filed against the president by unsuccessful trainee judges. A special law in 2003 set 30 as the lowest age for judicial appointments, although an exemption was granted to people who were already trainee judges before the legislation was enacted.
A new opinion poll by the MORI sociological institute indicates that the Civic Democrats are still the most popular party in the country but have lost ground to their main rivals the Social Democrats. According to the survey, the Civic Democrats would win 33.9 percent of the vote if an election were to be held now, while the Social Democrats would garner 29.8 percent, an increase of nearly 8 percentage points since the last poll conducted by the same institute. MORI's research also indicates that the Communist Party would finish third in an election with 13.1 percent of the vote followed by the Greens and Christian Democrats with 10.7 percent and 6.3 percent respectively.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Andrej Cirtek announced on Monday that the ministry wants to reduce its number of employees by up to 1200 between 2008 and 2010. The job cuts are part of a planned streamlining of the military to ensure that the Czech Republic is better equipped to fulfil tasks ensuing from its membership of NATO, the EU and the UN. Cirtek added, however, that it was too early to specify which areas of the military would be affected by the job cuts. The ministry currently employs 25,000 career soldiers and 20,000 civilian personnel.
The head of the Prague State Attorney's Office Lubos Petnik has been dismissed according to the Czech Press Agency (CTK). Citing what it calls a "trustworthy" source, CTK claims that the Minister for Justice Jiri Pospisil fired Mr Petnik "for insufficient managerial activity" and replaced him with the head of the Prague 1 District State Attorney's Office Jana Hercegova. Mr Petnik had been head of the Prague State Attorney's Office, which manages 10 district attorney's offices, since 1999.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has dismissed speculation that the governing cabinet could collapse if President Vaclav Klaus was not re-elected early next year. Mr Topolanek said that the forthcoming presidential election was not an issue covered in his Civic Democratic Party's agreement with its coalition partners the Greens and the Christian Democrats. Mr Topolanek was reacting in response to comments made by Civic Democrat deputy chairman and Prague mayor Pavel Bem, who had suggested that the ruling cabinet would fall if President Klaus was not re-elected. Mr Klaus will be the Civic Democrat's candidate in next year's presidential election. The Greens and the Christian Democrats are currently negotiating with the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, about fielding a joint candidate to challenge the President.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has criticised a decision by the Association of Czech GPs to close doctors' surgeries on 19 September in protest at what they say is a failure on the part of national health insurance companies to offer them higher fees for medical services. Mr Topolanek said it was wrong for the doctors to take such action before completing negotiations with health insurers. The one-day strike is the third such protest-action by Czech doctors this year. The Association of Czech GPS maintains that primary medical care is deeply undervalued in this country, which puts financial pressures on doctors and limits their ability to provide quality service. The Association has also urged doctors not to conclude any new contracts with health insurers until an agreement has been reached with them on higher fees for medical care.
Around 500 teachers are to hold a public demonstration outside government offices on Wednesday in support of demands for better pay. The Bohemian and Moravian Educational Workers Union is demanding a 5-percent pay increase for teachers as opposed to a 1.5 -percent increase offered by the Ministry of Education. A spokesman for the union warned that a failure to meet teachers' pay demands could have a detrimental effect on the school system. The Minister for Education Dana Kuchtova said that the government was only offering teachers the same pay increases as other workers in the state sector.
The Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint by a central figure in a case involving corruption charges against the deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek. Mr Cunek's former secretary Marcela Urbanova had been a key witness behind allegations that Mr Cunek had taken a bribe of half a million crowns or roughly 25,000 US dollars when he was mayor of the Moravian town of Vsetin five years ago. The charges were eventually dropped shortly after the original state prosecutor had been replaced - a move which gave rise to allegations of political interference in the case. The court dismissed Ms Urbanova's motion for procedural reasons, including the fact that she was simply a witness and not a participant in the proceedings and was therefore not entitled to lodge a complaint.
Christian Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek has told journalists after a party meeting on Monday that no agreement had been reached in Christian Democrat ranks on a candidate for next year's presidential election. He added that talks would continue with the leaders of other parties including the Social Democrats on possibly fielding a joint candidate to challenge the current incumbent Vaclav Klaus. Mr Cunek also said that his party would not be seeking an "anti-Klaus candidate at all costs" but would be looking for "a candidate enjoying the confidence of most Czech citizens."
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