A court in Prague on Monday began hearing the case of former defence minister Martin Barták and arms dealer Michal Smrž charged with corruption in the purchase of Tatra trucks for the Czech army. The prosecution believes that in 2008, Mr Barták in his capacity as then deputy defence minister asked the truck maker’s supervisory board head for a five-million dollar bribe to smoothen the deal. On Monday, Mr Barták denied any involvement in the alleged corruption, and dismissed the charges as “obvious nonsense”. If convicted, the former defence minister faces 12 years in prison.
Newly appointed Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social
Democrats, presented President Miloš Zeman with an official list of
candidates for ministerial posts at Prague Castle on Monday evening.
Sobotka said after the meeting there were no indications from the head of
state that he would press for changes to the ministers proposed by the
three coalition parties and added that he counted on the Cabinet being up
and running by the end of January.
The list features eight representatives of Mr. Sobotka’s party, six candidates from ANO and three from the Christian Democrats. President Zeman has said he has reservations about the qualifications of a number of ministerial candidates and wants to hold individual talks with all of them starting on Wednesday.
The newly appointed Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats, says that when appointed his government will examine some personnel decisions taken by the current interim cabinet headed by Jiří Rusnok. Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, Mr. Sobotka said his government would look at whether changes in senior positions had been made on the basis of clientelism rather than expertise. He said in future personnel matters should be the remit of an Office of the Government panel rather than individual ministers. Mr. Rusnok’s cabinet have been criticised for making a high number of changes at ministries and other state bodies since being installed in July.
Patrik Kunčar of the Christian Democrats has won a Senate by-election in the Zlín constituency in southern Moravia. Mr. Kunčar, the mayor of Uherský Brod, beat Libor Lukáš of the Civic Democrats in a second-round runoff that saw turnout of 16 percent. The seat in the Senate became vacant when Tomio Okamura of Dawn gave it up to take up a seat in the Chamber of Deputies.
The Social Democrats’ human rights and family spokeswoman Michaela Marksová Tominová is in the frame to become minister of labour and social affairs in the emerging Czech government. The party’s leaders selected her after their previous nominee withdrew citing family tragedy. The Social Democrats are set to have eight seats in the next cabinet, alongside ANO with six and the Christian Democrats with three.
President Miloš Zeman on Friday appointed Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats prime minister. The move came 83 days after October’s elections to the lower house, the longest gap between a vote and the appointment of a prime minister since the foundation of the Czech Republic. The country now has two prime ministers, with an interim cabinet installed by Mr. Zeman and headed by Jiří Rusnok set to continue running the country until an elected government is appointed.
Speaking shortly after Friday’s appointment ceremony, Mr. Sobotka said his first foreign trip as prime minister would be to the neighbouring state of Slovakia. Since the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, Czech leaders have traditionally made Slovakia their first port of call as regards international visits.
A man suspected of being the head of a so-called “spirits mafia” trading in illegal booze offered a police officer a CZK 10 million bribe, police said on Friday. They accused Radek Březina of making the offer during questioning last year and said he had also attempted to bribe witnesses with tens of millions of crowns. The police made the statements during a news conference in the Moravian city of Olomouc presenting information on an operation this week in which 15 people were charged with illegal trading in spirits. The gang cost the state at least CZK 3 billion in lost tax revenues, police said.
During Friday’s naming ceremony at Prague Castle, President Zeman wished Mr. Sobotka success in forming a “professional team based on expert knowledge and life experience”. Mr. Zeman is set to hold individual meetings with the prime minister designate’s ministerial candidates in the coming weeks and has said he could name a new government by the end of the month. However, he has raised questions over the suitability of a number of cabinet nominees.
Bohuslav Sobotka was due to become prime minister on Friday, the Czech Republic's 11th since the country became independent in 1993. Mr Sobotka, who leads the leftist Social Democrats, is currently putting the finishing touches to a three-party coalition, but the question on everyone's lips is will this government be any more stable than previous ones?
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