Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek claims that he has enough votes to pass a no-confidence motion in Prime Minister Topolanek’s centre-right government. The comments were made during a press conference on Monday, in which Mr Paroubek threatened to call for the motion if the Civic Democrat controlled Senate attempted to reverse health-fee concessions passed last week by the lower house. The Social Democrat leader said that if health fee reductions are meddled with without Social Democrat consultation, the current government would fall. Mr Paroubek did not elaborate on which deputies would support him. The Social Democrats and the Communists currently have 97 votes in the 200-member lower chamber, while the governing coalition has 96. The remaining seven are independent deputies and coalition rebels who could swing either way. Four previous no-confidence votes called by the Social Democrats have failed.
The prices of many cars sold in the Czech Republic have been slashed by as much as a third, and are at their cheapest levels for 15 years, according to a report by the Czech daily Lidové Noviny. The fall in prices is partly attributed to the strong crown, but also on increased competition stemming from the global economic slowdown, which has hit car sales particularly strongly. In contrast to Western Europe, Czech car sales remain on the up, with a nine percent increase from 2007.
A group which seeks greater female involvement in Czech politics has concluded that male attitudes present a major stumbling block to female advancement. The group, entitled “Forum 50%” seeks to reverse the fact that the Czech Republic has one of the lowest male-to-female ratios of women in politics in the developed world. At present, women make up only 15.5 percent of MPs in the lower house of Parliament, and 17.3 percent of the senate. According to Lenka Bennerová, a representative of Forum 50%, women are often treated rudely, belittled and even mocked when attempting to present legislation. The forum attempts to empower women by educating them in effective strategies to combat such prejudices.
The workload of Czech government officials is winding down until the New Year, according to the ČTK news wire. With both parliamentary and cabinet meetings suspended, the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is reportedly enjoying a rest. Politics returns in full swing in January, with cabinet meetings on the 5th, while the Czech Republic formally assumes the presidency of the EU on January 7th.
A new poll from the CVVM company has found that mass disaffection with Czech politics persists. According to their findings, only 11 percent of Czechs are content with the current state of Czech politics. Conversely, the Czech president Václav Klaus retains the trust of sixty percent of Czechs, according to the survey. However, the Czech president’s numbers are down three percent from the previous month and are at their lowest since March. Local and regional representatives retain their traditional position at the top of the trust ladder, with 63 percent of respondents satisfied. Meanwhile, confidence in the Czech government remains the same as a prior CVVM poll, with 27 percent expressing faith in its abilities.
The Czech Republic’s entry into the Schengen border-free zone has accelerated immigration abuse, according to the head of the Czech Foreigner’s Police Vladislav Husák. The Czech Republic joined Schengen at the end of 2007, effectively ending border checks. According to figures cited by Mr Husák, around 3400 illegal immigrants had been discovered in the country between January and November 2008. Further, the police of other EU nations had handed over 300 more migrants that in 2007 to the Czech authorities because of expired Czech visas. Czech authorities also increasingly view the Czech Republic as a target destination for illegal migrants, as opposed to just a “gateway” or transit point into the European Union. Ukrainians form the largest group of legal immigrants, with numbers around 132,000 – 1428 Ukrainians have been revealed to be staying illegally in the country in recent months. On the upside, the Czech Foreigner’s Police has announced that fears of a rise in crime in connection with the country’s Schengen entry have proven to be largely unfounded.
Meteorologists are forecasting a cold spell, ending several days of mild weather in the Czech Republic. Snow is almost certain to fall in the mountainous areas of the country, but meteorologists are expressing a 70 percent chance of snow falling in Prague on Christmas Eve, something that has become increasingly rare in recent years.
Supermarkets are misleading customers with deceptive and even non-existent discounts, according to a report by the news website novinky.cz. According to the report, supermarkets such as Tesco use deceptive signage which appears at first glance to offer a discount from a previous price. However, the novinky.cz investigation found that in some cases prices were lowered by only ten halers, in other cases, the before and after prices were identical, and in a few cases, the new discount prices were actually higher than the previous advertised prices. Responding to queries about these apparently misleading practices, a spokesperson for one Tesco store implicated stated that simple human error was the most likely cause.
Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová will draft a compromise plan on the
deployment of Czech troops in foreign missions for next year. Speaking on a
TV debate show on Sunday, she said the plan envisages reducing number of
troops in NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan to 500 and withdrawing the
anti-terrorist unit. The government could debate the re-drafted plan at the
beginning of January. The chief of staff of the Czech Army, Vlastimil
Picek, has already informed the NATO and ISAF headquarters about the
The lower house of Parliament on Friday rejected a proposal on the deployment of Czech troops in foreign missions in 2009. Although Prime Minister Topolánek offered a number of concessions, the opposition overturned the proposal with the aid of a number of independents. The government subsequently approved maintaining Czech forces abroad until the end of February.
The Jewish community in Prague has marked the beginning of Chanukah on Sunday by erecting the Menorah in Náměstí Jana Palacha, just outside the historic Jewish Quarter of Prague. The Menorah lighting ceremony was established eleven years ago by one of Prague’s Jewish congregations. Chanukah starts on Monday and the giant candelabrum will remain at the square until the end of the holiday, which falls on December 29.