- Prague Civic Democrat leader Bohuslav Svoboda has been elected mayor of Prague.
- The police president is to meet with the prime minister and President Václav Klaus following a call for him to resign from office.
- Czechs may soon gain better access to information pertaining to the communist past of judges in active service.
Bohuslav Svoboda elected mayor of Prague
Prague Civic Democrat leader Bohuslav Svoboda was elected mayor of Prague on Tuesday in a stormy session disrupted by angry protesters unhappy with the opposition power-sharing deal in Prague. Hundreds of people turned out to protest against the coalition of Civic and Social Democrats crowding into City Hall to demonstrate their anger against a deal which they claim perpetuates the corruption-tainted status quo.
The opposition agreement between the Civic and Social Democrats, which froze-out Prague election winner TOP 09, has evoked widespread protests and divided the parties of the Czech governing coalition. Thousands of people have signed a petition against it including the former president Vaclav Havel. Amidst growing tension at City Hall on Tuesday Bohuslav Svoboda accused TOP 09 leaders of fuelling public discontent to further their own political interests.
Mr Svoboda, who is 66, is a well known gynaecologist and former head of the Czech Medical Chamber. His only previous involvement in politics was when he stood unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1998 for a small grouping called Four-Coalition.
PM defends grand coalitions, but expresses preference for centre-right alliance
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has dismissed criticism of an undercover pact between his Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats at many town halls around the country. Mr. Nečas said that although "grand coalitions" have emerged in the four biggest towns, Prague, Brno, Ostrava and Plzen, the overall number of towns that are to be governed by a grand coalition would be lower than that after the last elections eight years ago. Although the prime minister said the Prague public should give Bohuslav Svoboda a fair chance, he said that he personally would have liked to see a centre-right alliance in the Czech capital. Many journalists have picked up on the discrepancy in recent days noting that the Civic Democrat leader was simply unable to prevent a deal with the party’s main opposition rival.
Police president wants to put his case to the PM and president
Police president Oldřich Martinu is to meet with Prime Minister Petr Nečas and President Vaclav Klaus following a call for him to resign from office. At a press conference in Prague on Monday, Interior Minister Radek John asked the police president to leave his post, saying he was highly dissatisfied with the way the country’s elite police units were functioning and criticized the police president for failing to prevent information leaks from the presidium. The public announcement came hot on the heels of last week’s resignation of Martinu’s chief deputy, Viktor Čech who cited “long-lasting discord between the country’s elite police units” as the reason behind his departure. The prime minister responded by saying he wanted a meeting with all parties involved and criticized the interior minister for not consulting the matter with him in advance. The Office of the President confirmed that Mr. Klaus would meet with the police president on Wednesday, but refused to disclose further details.
Court ruling may bare judges’ political past
Czechs may soon gain better access to information pertaining to the communist past of judges in active service. The Constitutional Court on Tuesday upheld a complaint by activist Tomáš Pecina, who demanded such information in vain. The constitutional court judge overturned a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court which concluded that such information was private and the public had no right to it. The Supreme Administrative Court will now have to reopen the case.
Advisory centre to cushion impact of rent liberalization
The ministry for local development is setting up an advisory centre for tenants who are hard hit by the liberalization of rents due to come into force next year. Minister Kamil Jankovský announced the decision at a press conference in Prague on Tuesday, saying that the ministry was aware that the liberalization of rents could leave some tenants –especially elderly people and families with children- in financial difficulties. The amendment to the law which goes into force as of January, 2011 will affect over 400,000 tenants in the Czech Republic. The minister said the advisory centre would operate free of charge and be accessible to the public by phone, e-mail and visits in person.
Predicted electricity price rises in 2011
Electricity prices for households are expected to go up by 4.6 percent in 2011, while companies should expect a 5.2 percent increase, the Energy Regulatory Office said on Tuesday. The predicted price increases will be valid on condition that a bill reducing state support for solar power passes through both houses of Parliament and is signed into law by the president. Should the bill, which has so far only passed through the lower chamber, be rejected electricity prices next year could soar by up to 15 percent. Its fate in the Senate is unclear since some senators feel it is unfair to small investors.
Sixteen-year- old aggressor taken into custody
A sixteen-year-old boy who stabbed three children in a playground over the weekend has been charged with attempted murder and taken into custody. A judge ruled on the case on Tuesday morning, rejecting the boy’s release on bail for fear that he could inflict more violence on others. A psychologist on the case described the youth as potentially dangerous and highly unstable.
The youth, who had recently broken up with his girlfriend, had been drinking at the pub with friends before heading for a local playground where he attacked three children in quick succession as a means of releasing his emotions. A nine-year-old boy was rushed to hospital in critical condition after being repeatedly stabbed in the neck, stomach and pelvis. He was operated on and is now in stable condition. The other two children, who were stabbed in the back and hands, are also recovering. If convicted, the youth faces a sentence of up to ten years.
Road maintenance crews report problems on southern by-pass
With the onset of winter, road maintenance crews report growing problems along the recently opened southern by-pass around Prague. The by-pass has no defrosting system which means that maintenance crews are having to use heavy machinery to clear the road every few hours, with traffic grinding to a halt. The tunnels along the by-pass were repeatedly closed for maintenance and reopened when the first bout of Arctic weather hit on Monday. Traffic police fear more complications on Wednesday which is expected to bring more heavy snow.
Deputy moves to make winter tires obligatory
The first snow this week seriously worsened conditions on Czech roads, a situation aggravated by the fact that some drivers are still using summer tires. A deputy for the Public Affairs party has now moved to change this. Stanislav Huml, former head of the traffic police, has tabled a proposed amendment to the law which would make winter tires obligatory from the start of November to the end of March. Huml says he is certain the bill will pass through both houses without a hitch, but due to time pressure it is unlikely to take affect this winter season.
Second oldest Czech swears by Becherovka
The second oldest Czech, 107-year-old Marie Tresnakova celebrated her birthday at a senior citizens home on Monday surrounded by family and friends. The old lady eats a healthy diet and has never smoked, but she is partial to the Czech liqueur Becherovka to which she attributes her good health and longevity. The news must have spread because many well-wishers arrived armed with a bottle of her favourite drink. She now has 11 litres of it to keep her going strong.
Although Tuesday has been clear and frosty across most of the Czech Republic, Wednesday is expected to bring up to 20 centimetres of fresh snow, with daytime temperatures at around minus 7 degrees Celsius and night-time lows dropping to minus 15.