Meanwhile, the minister of labour, Petr Necas, a Civic Democrat party colleague of President Klaus's, said if Jan Svejnar does stand it will be a copy-book example of conflict of interest. Since 2003 Mr Svejnar has been chairman of the supervisory board of CSOB bank, which is involved in a CZK 30-billion arbitration case with the Czech state. Speaking on a TV debate show, Mr Necas said he was very much shocked that anybody could consider Mr Svejnar as a serious candidate for president, adding that the economist should have quit his CSOB post some time ago if he planned to run for the post of head of state.
The supreme state attorney, Renata Vesecka, plans to ask Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to have the civilian counter-intelligence service BIS investigate a leak from police and state attorney offices. Outgoing deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek said material suggesting he had abused the social welfare system had leaked from a police investigation into alleged bribe-taking. Speaking on Czech Television, the supreme state attorney said such revelations constituted abuse of office. Mr Cunek resigned on Thursday, citing the reopening of an investigation into the alleged bribe-taking. His move came days after TV reports that the Christian Democrats leader had received social welfare payments while at the same time having millions of crowns in different bank accounts.
Jan Svejnar has said he will decide by the end of next week whether to stand for president of the Czech Republic. Mr Svejnar, a respected US-based economist, told Czech Television he would come to a decision after holding talks with representatives of the parties in Parliament. The Social Democrats, the Greens and most European Democrat senators have already said they would back him in a contest with the incumbent Vaclav Klaus in early February. Mr Svejnar, who emigrated from communist Czechoslovakia in 1970, said he would have no objections to the support of the present-day Communist Party; their backing could be crucial if he is to succeed Mr Klaus.
The minister of industry and trade, Martin Riman, is to receive this year's award for fighting bureaucracy from the association eStat.cz. The prize is given for systematically battling excessive red-tape, particularly in the business sphere. eStat.cz's Ivo Prokes said Mr Riman merited the 2007 award for a proposed amendment to the law governing self-employment. Mr Prokes said the new bill limited the excessive powers of trades licensing offices, which can often influence whether the self-employed are successful or not, and returns that power to the market.
Police broke up a rock concert attended by around 120 skinheads in a hotel in Nove Hamry, west Bohemia on Saturday night. Over 100 officers intervened when one of the participating bands performed a song with anti-Semitic lyrics; it was a cover version of a song written by a now-banned Slovak far-right group. Two policemen were injured in clashes with the skinheads and six arrests were made.
Visitors to the centre of Prague on Sunday were given the opportunity to take part in an original Czech "sport" called woodkopf, which involves two people with wooden boards on their heads take one another on. The light-hearted event was organised by a group of theatre actors, who have called for woodkopf to be included in the Olympic Games if Prague wins a competition to host the event in 2016. Actor Vladimir Cech, who has been playing for four years, said it was as integral to Czech culture as beer and knedlo zelo vepro (dumplings, cabbage and pork); one day, he said, woodkopf will be regarded internationally as a Czech word.
Meanwhile, Jiri Cunek says he will discuss his future as chairman of the Christian Democrats at a national party conference on Tuesday. Mr Cunek said on a TV debate programme that he did not wish to remain head of a party in which the majority of members did not support him. Senator Cunek is set to quit both cabinet posts on Wednesday. The Christian Democrats will name their choice to succeed him within the next two weeks.
The Finance Ministry has launched an investigation into the purchase of new Tatra trucks by the Czech army, Lidove noviny reported. The supplier was selected directly, not through a tender, and critics say the trucks are both over-priced and fail to meet the army's requirements, the daily said. Inspectors and auditors from the Finance Ministry are investigating the CZK 2.6 billion deal signed by former defence minister Jiri Sedivy last December. At the time the government said it had selected Tatra as it was a Czech firm and provided thousands of jobs in the north Moravian region.
Slavia Prague are now six points clear at the top of the Czech football league after a 1:0 home win over second-placed Teplice on Saturday. The only goal of the biggest game of the first division's 12th round was scored by Ladislav Volasek in the 30th minute. Slavia take on Arsenal in the Champions League in Prague next Wednesday; in front of their home crowd, the Czech league leaders will be hoping to make some amends for their 7:0 away drubbing by the London club in their last Champions League outing.
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