Parliament has started debate on the government’s proposed state budget for 2009. The proposal envisages a 38.1 billion crown deficit and is based on a projected 4,8 GDP percent growth. Its passage through Parliament is uncertain with at least three of the ruling party’s own MPs strongly opposed to it. Civic Democrat rebel Vlastimil Tlustý says he will ask government to re-draft it and MPs Juraj Raninec and Jan Schwippel say they will also vote against it. Jan Swippel points out that although the budget is based on a projected 4,8 percent GDP growth, the Central Bank anticipates a GDP growth of 3,6 percent.
Meanwhile, Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek has been rallying supporters to bring down the government. Shortly after his party’s landslide victory in regional elections, information surfaced that the Social Democrats had offered the Christian Democrats of the coalition government the posts of governor in the Pardubice and South Moravian region, if they bring down the government in Wednesday’s vote. Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek publicly refused the offer, saying his party would stand by the government as one man.
A state prosecutor has asked for sentences of up to ten years in prison for a mother and five other adults involved in a shocking case of child abuse. The adults are believed to have been part of a sect which systematically tortured two boys since birth, locking them up, burning them with cigarettes and cutting them with a knife. The case, involving a 33-year-old woman who posed as a twelve-year-old girl, and later as a thirteen- year-old boy in Norway, has shocked the nation but left much unexplained. The leader of the sect, who is believed to be abroad, has so far managed to escape justice.
Private practitioners fear they could lose patients if the Social Democrats push through their plan to “abolish” health care fees for all patients in regional hospitals. The introduction of direct payments at medical facilities earlier this year has come under severe criticism from the left-wing parties and the Social Democrats’ promise to “abolish” them at regional hospitals and cover the expenditures from regional coffers is believed to be one of the reasons behind their resounding success in the elections. Health Minister Tomáš Julínek said that even if the fees were unpopular he believed he had been right to introduce them. Private practitioners have threatened to take the matter to the anti-trust office.
The Czech crown fell to a 12-month low point against the dollar on Tuesday and stock prices here surged 2.68 percent in early trading. The currency slid to 19 crowns to the dollar from 18.88 at the close on Monday, the lowest point for 12 months. The crown also opened weaker at 25.22 per euro, from 25.16 on Monday.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said on Tuesday he was confident his centre-right government would survive Wednesday’s no-confidence vote in the lower house. Speaking to journalists after a meeting of his party’s leadership, the Civic Democrats chairman said he was certain that rebels in the governing coalition would not assist the opposition in bringing down the government. The Civic Democrat leadership has been debating the party’s strategy in the wake of its humiliating defeat in regional elections last weekend, and Prime Minister Topolánek has urged all non-leftist voters to come to the polls in the second round of Senate elections and back the candidates of one of the governing parties.
A concert in support of the Civic Democratic Party ahead of the second round of elections to the Senate is being held on Prague’s Old Town Square on Tuesday afternoon. The ruling party took a beating from the opposition Social Democrats in elections last weekend and much depends on the outcome of the second round. The prime minister’s political future hangs in the balance as does the ruling party’s narrow majority in the Senate without which they would find it hard to push through the government’s domestic and foreign policy priorities.
The Constitutional Court has refused to amend the law on assembly in order to help towns prevent neo-Nazi gatherings, the CTK news agency reported on Tuesday. Plzen City Hall, which has repeatedly had problems preventing neo-Nazi gatherings and protest marches, made a proposal for several provisions in the law on assembly to be revised, so as to make it easier to ban such events on legal grounds. The Court ruled against curbing the right to assembly in any way and also refused to abrogate a verdict according to which Plzen City Hall had banned a neo-Nazi gathering unlawfully earlier this year.
Czech President Václav Klaus has responded to last weekend’s Senate and regional elections by saying they send a ‘clear signal’ to politicians that voters are dissatisfied. Mr Klaus urged people to wait until the second round of voting this weekend before making their final judgments, but did say that the Civic Democratic Party, of which he is an honorary chairman, had paid dearly for voters’ apparent desire for change. The Civic Democrats went into the regional elections governing 12 of the country’s 13 regions. In last weekend’s vote they lost in all 13 regions to the opposition Social Democrats. The Social Democrats are also expected to make inroads into the Civic Democrats’ majority in the Upper House in the second round of voting for the Senate which will take place this weekend.