Former presidential candidate Jan Švejnar has announced that he will not be running for a senate seat in the near future. Mr Švejnar has been the subject of heated debate about a potential political career in the Czech Republic ever since his presidential run in February. Most recently, Mr Švejnar, who resides in Michigan, had been mulling a senate run, something which he has now decided against.
The Czech Court of Appeals has confirmed an earlier ruling which clears former policeman Tomáš Čermák of violently assaulting Green MP Kateřina Jacques. The alleged assault occurred in May 2006, when Ms Jacques took part in an anti-Nazi demonstration in Prague. During the demonstration, Ms Jacques was beaten to the ground by Mr Čermák, although he denies that excessive force was used. Mr Čermák was subsequently charged with abuse of police authority, although the charges were later dismissed by a Czech court. Mr Čermák has argued that intervention against the Green MP was warranted because she was partaking in an unauthorized demonstration. He has also accused Ms Jacques of staging the incident in order to gain sympathy for the Green Party, charges which the Green MP has dismissed as ridiculous.
A new poll by the STEM polling agency gives the Social Democrats a more than seven point lead over the ruling Civic Democrat party. The poll gives the Social Democrats 31.2%, the Civic Democrats 23.4% and the communists 11.3%. The poll not only gives cause for concern to the ruling party, but also key coalition partner the Christian Democrats, who only poll at 5.5%. The other coalition member, the Greens, fare relatively well with 9.2%. STEM polls have had the Social Democrats leading against their Civic Democrat rivals since November 2007.
Miroslav Grebeníček, the predecessor to current Czech communist party leader Vojtěch Filip could return to his former position as leader of the party, according to reports. Grebeníček, who led the party between 1991-2005, has been nominated as a potential candidate in the party’s leadership vote which takes place between 17-18 April in the Czech town of Hradec Králové. Grebeníček is seen as a hardliner, whereas his successor Vojtěch Filip is viewed as being more moderate. The party has seen internal division in recent months about its future direction, which increased following the re-election of President Klaus in February. Official candidates for the leadership include Mr Filip, MP Stanislav Grospič and Euro MP Miloslav Ransdorf.
The Czech Prime Minister as well as Health Minister Tomáš Julínek have been giving testimony at the Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court, defending the government’s implementation of doctor’s visitation fees. The court action comes as a result of moves by the opposition Social Democrats to have the fees declared unconstitutional in that the Czech constitution guarantees free-at-point-of-use healthcare. Prime Minister Topolánek argued that both patients and the state had benefited from the introduction of doctor’s visitation fees of 30 crowns in January. In a blow to opponents of the fees, the court suspended hearings indefinitely following the testimonies. Analysts have suggested that the court’s judges are divided on the issue.
The parents of a pair of baby girls who were accidentally switched at birth in a hospital in the Czech town of Třebič are undertaking a fight for compensation. Lawyers representing the parents of one of the children are demanding compensation which totals 12 million crowns from the hospital involved. The children in the case were only reunited with their biological parents ten months after they were born.
Prague City Hall has drastically cut the amount of money allocated for a publicity campaign to become an official candidate country to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The initial budget of 100 million crowns has been slashed to just over 14 million crowns by Prague City Hall. The move fuels speculation that Prague’s hopes of hosting the Olympics are slim at best. The official candidate countries will be chosen in June, but the mayor of Prague Pavel Bém has publicly conceded that a European city is unlikely to be offered the Games. The opposition Social Democrats have criticized the apparent U-turn stating that the government should stick to a commitment that it previously made to support the 2016 campaign.
The Ministry of Culture has announced that the southern Bohemian town of Jindřichův Hradec is its “historical town of 2007.” The award is given to towns that demonstrate an extraordinary dedication to the preservation of their cultural and architectural heritage. Runners up in the competition were the towns of Šternberk and Uherské Hradiště. The winner was announced at Prague castle today and will receive a million crown award.
The biggest telecoms company in the Czech Republic, Telefonica O2, said on Monday that it would pay its main local rival, T-Mobile 2 billion CZK (127.3 million USD) claimed in unpaid phone bills. T-Mobile says it is owed the sum because Telefonica O2 and its predecessor paid insufficient connection charges dating back to 1997. Telefonica O2 said that it would make the payment because property worth more than the contested sum had been frozen as a result of a legal order taken out at T-Mobile’s request in the bitter battle between the companies. But it says it will fight on. Telefonica O2 said it would launch a legal challenge to existing Czech law covering the seizure of assets because loopholes had been exploited by its rival. Telefonica O2’s combined fixed and mobile phone businesses make it the biggest telecoms operator on the Czech market, closely followed by T-Mobile.
The editors in chief of five of the Czech Republic’s biggest newspapers have sent a joint letter to Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič, calling on him not to sign a controversial press law recently passed by the Slovak parliament. Last week Slovakia’s seven leading dailies published a blank front page in protest against the law, which guarantees those who feel they have been slandered or defamed the right to reply within the offending paper. In the letter of protest, editors of five leading Czech publications said that this was pushing an individual’s right to reply to absurd lengths. The law has also been criticized elsewhere in the foreign media and by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Many fear that Slovak newspapers, which will be fined should they refuse to print the response to their article, will become cluttered up with individuals’ reactions and therefore difficult to read. The law will come into effect when it is officially signed by President Ivan Gašparovič.