Civic Democrat MPs Vlastimil Tlustý and Jan Schwippel, two of the key players in the collapse of the coalition government last week, have assumed leading positions in the party Libertas.cz, it was announced on Tuesday. Both Mr Tlustý and Mr Schwippel will be running on behalf of the eurosceptic, right-of-centre party in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. Nominations for party ballots in the election closed on Tuesday afternoon. Libertas.cz was established at the beginning of this year by former media magnate Vladimír Železný.
The most likely time for euro adoption by the Czech Republic are the years 2013 to 2015, according to Czech National Bank governor Zdeněk Tůma. Speaking at an international round table on the current financial crisis, Mr. Tůma said that this time frame was economically feasible but that in the end it would be a political decision. The centre-right government promised to set a euro adoption date on November 1, 2009, but in view of recent developments it will not be in a position to make that decision. However governor Tůma said he was confident that any cabinet would logically resume the discussion about euro adoption in the autumn.
President Klaus’s spokesman Ladislav Jakl told Wednesday’s Mladá fronta Dnes daily that the president would respect the agreement reached. Mr. Klaus, whose task it is to appoint a prime minister designate, said last week that he was ready to appoint any politician who could prove that he had majority support in the lower house. Neither the ruling coalition nor the opposition can hope to achieve this without reaching an agreement that would win broad support. Should they fail to agree the president could propose a cabinet of his own choice.
Feverish preparations are underway for US President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Prague. The US president is to deliver his first public address in Europe on Prague’s Hradčany Square on Sunday morning, but organizers said on Wednesday that in the event of rain the speech could be moved indoors to Černín Palace, the seat of the Czech Foreign Ministry. Some 30,000 people are expected to turn up for the event. In the afternoon President Obama will attend an EU-US summit at Prague’s Congress Centre.
A group of Czech senators say they are determined to fight a controversial article of the penal code which has come under fire for curtailing press freedom. The respective amendment, which went into effect on April 1st, bans journalists from releasing the names of crime victims and publishing the contents of police wiretappings. The article was originally meant to protect victims from undesirable publicity, but its critics say it has been tailored to protect politicians from possible negative publicity. Senate deputy chairman Petr Pithart, one of the law’s leading critics, said he and 17 other senators were planning to lodge a complaint about it to the Constitutional Court.
Talks are underway on the composition of a caretaker government which would rule the country until early elections in the autumn. On the basis of a framework agreement reached on Tuesday between the ruling coalition and the opposition Social Democrats the caretaker government would be made up of 16 experts without partisan affiliation. Candidates for the posts would be career diplomats and economic experts handpicked by the coalition and opposition. Disputes have already broken out between the rival parties regarding the selection process. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said he would consult the Communists regarding suitable candidates, which Prime Minister Topolanek said was totally unacceptable. He said on Wednesday he would not be blackmailed into making any further concessions.
The country’s oldest prisoner, eighty-seven-year-old Ludmila Brožová Polednová who is serving a six year sentence for helping to send democratic politician Milada Horaková to the gallows in the hardline 1950s has been transferred to a jailhouse where she can get better medical care. Polednová, who entered the Plzeň jailhouse on March 19th, has been transferred to Světlá nad Sázavou, which specializes in ill and elderly prisoners. Her appeal for the sentence to be postponed on health grounds was rejected. Brožová Polednová, a former communist prosecutor, is the first and only participant in the Horaková show trial to be brought to justice.
The Czech Republic has stopped issuing work permits to several countries’ nationals in view of the economic crisis. The measure concerns Moldova, Mongolia, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam and may stay in effect for several weeks or months. Foreign nationals who are in the country legally and are unable to find work because of the crisis can ask for the government to cover the cost of their fare home. They will also be given food and accommodation until their departure and get 500 euros as a bonus.
Opposition deputies in the lower house have called on Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to accept full responsibility for the so-called Wolf scandal and resign. The Wolf scandal set in motion the collapse of the centre-right government when it emerged that the prime minister had instructed one of his aides to try to prevent Czech Public Television from broadcasting an investigative report into the dubious financial activities of Petr Wolf, an independent deputy whose support was vital to the fragile governing coalition. The opposition Social Democrats and the Communists said the prime minister had grossly violated the principles of parliamentary democracy and freedom of the press and that he should accept full responsibility for his actions.
In related news, Prime Minister Topolánek on Tuesday put forward five alternatives for the tenure of his ruling coalition. The first suggests the government remain in place for roughly a week, the second until the end of April, when the parties are to agree on measures to counter the current economic crisis. The third and forth proposed dates extend to the beginning and end of June, respectively, after elections for the European Parliament and the completion of the Czech EU Presidency. The final alternative is that the government would remain in place until early elections. Mr Topolanek also stated on Tuesday that as the chair of the majority party he wants to form the new government himself, though he need not remain at its head. The opposition Social Democrat Party has so far resisted all proposals for the government to remain in place for more than a few weeks, and is promoting the appointment of a caretaker government.
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