The parties of the ruling centre-left coalition have finalized their policy programme statement on the basis of which they will seek a vote of confidence in the lower house on February 18th. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday distributed copies of the policy statement to his coalition partners ANO and the Christian Democrats, ahead of a tripartite meeting at which they are to discuss the document with trade unions and employers. The cabinet is to meet on Wednesday to give the policy statement its final approval.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said during question and answer time in the lower house on Friday that his cabinet would not offer guarantees on the purchase price of electricity generated at the Temelin nuclear power plant in connection with its planned expansion. Experts say that the $15 billion project would only be economically feasible if the government were to guarantee higher energy prices, thereby putting a financial burden on the state or directly on consumers. CEZ, the state-owned power utility which runs the plant, has been stalling on a final decision whether to go ahead with the massive construction project and has indicated it is not ready to commit without such guarantees.
The Plzen branch of the Civic Democratic Party is losing more members following the departure of former justice minister Jiri Pospíšil. Mr. Pospíšil, who was a leading figure of the party’s Plzen branch for 14 years, announced his departure last week citing loss of support from the party’s central leadership. Ten more party members have left in his wake and others are expected to follow. The Civic Democrats suffered a humiliating defeat in October’s general election following a corruption scandal that brought down the Civic Democrat-led, centre-right government last summer.
Adopting the euro is not among the goals of the new Czech government, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš told the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. Reacting to Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek’ remarks that the coalition government should pave the way for adopting the single European currency as soon as possible, Mr Babiš said the Czech economy was not ready for the move, suggesting the country could adopt the euro in six years’ time at the earliest.
Christian Democrat Jan Bartošek was elected deputy chairman of the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. Mr Bartošek, who faced no contestant for the post, replaces party leader Pavel Bělobrádek who was recently appointed deputy prime minister and stepped down as lower house deputy chairman. Jan Bartošek joins lower house deputy chairs Jaroslava Jermanová of the ANO party, Communist chair Vojtěch Filip and Petr Gazdík of the TOP 09 party. Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies is Social Democrat Jan Hamáček.
The Chamber of Deputies voted in favour Wednesday of stripping former Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda of parliamentary immunity so he can face criminal proceedings. The vote in favour was 101 of the 175 lawmakers present with 55 against. The debate was concluded Tuesday without a vote being held. Now an MP for the Civic Democrats, Mr. Svoboda is accused along with other councillors of breach of competition rules and breach of trust in connection with Prague’s Opencard electronic card system. He describes the accusations as nonsensical and politically motivated but says he is in favour of his immunity being lifted.
Social Democrat and ANO party negotiators said on Wednesday that they are seeking to reduce the restitution bill for non-returned church property by around 13 billion crowns. The Czech government and religious organisations previously agreed on total payments of 59 billion crowns spread over 30 years as compensation property taken by the former communist regime which will not be handed back. The party negotiators are also seeking changes in the inflation linking of the payments. Church groups are due to get back around 75 billion crowns worth of land and property. The two parties say the deal with the former centre-right government should be revised. Separately, prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he wanted a special committee in the government offices to follow the restitution process.
Prime Minister Sobotka says he has reached agreement with ANO chief and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš over the placing of a Social Democrat deputy minister at the Finance Ministry, in keeping with a tradition of coalition parties having officials at that level at ministries they do not control. However, Mr. Sobotka did not reveal the name of his party’s candidate after talks with Mr. Babiš on Tuesday. The latter had previously refused to accept the Social Democrats’ Jiří Peřina as deputy minister for taxation.
The recently appointed three-party coalition government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka will seek a confidence vote on February 18, deputies decided on Tuesday. Under Czech law, a new government has 30 days to win approval in the lower house. The government of the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats has 111 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.