The 39th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival gets underway on Friday evening. During the opening ceremony the American acting great Harvey Keitel will receive an award for his outstanding contribution to world cinema. The festival attracts many thousands of mostly young people to the west Bohemian spa town and continues until July 10.
President Vaclav Klaus has asked the acting leader of the Social
Democrats, Stanislav Gross, to begin talks on forming a new government. Mr
Gross is hoping to build a coalition with the same two centre-right
parties who were in government with the Social Democrats under his
predecessor Vladimir Spidla; he resigned last weekend in the wake of poor
results in elections to the European Parliament.
However, Mr Gross must find at least one extra vote to secure a majority in the Chamber of Deputies before the president will appoint him prime minister. The previous coalition had a majority of one in the 200-seat lower house, but one MP from the smallest party, the Freedom Union, has joined the opposition and another has announced he is going to follow suit.
In the meantime, a former member of the opposition Civic Democrats has allied himself with the Freedom Union.
Newspaper reports on Friday suggested that Mr Gross, who is 34, would try to win the support of MPs from the opposition benches in order to gain a majority.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, President Klaus said the new government should offer more than just the replacement of a few faces. He said the Czech people were expecting them to deliver change.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament has agreed to send some 100 soldiers to Greece to be part of the security force at the Olympic Games in Athens. If the plan is approved by the Senate, the soldiers specialised in anti-biological and chemical warfare would stay in Greece from July 28 to September 30 at a total cost of 30.3 million Czech crowns (some one million Euros), to be covered by the Czech Republic, Greece, and NATO. To help optimize security during the Olympic Games this summer a Czech anti-chemical unit helped train 48 Greek soldiers in June.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla officially tenders his resignation as prime minister and leader of the Social Democrats at the cabinet session on Wednesday evening, which will also see the entire cabinet resign. Speaking to journalists, Mr Spidla said he would send his written resignation to President Vaclav Klaus on Thursday morning. Mr Spidla decided to step down from both posts after he narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in him as party leader just weeks after his party's dramatic defeat by the Eurosceptic opposition in the European Parliament elections earlier this month. Although he said he would stay active on the Czech political scene, he refused to comment on speculation that he could be the next speaker of parliament or succeed European Commissioner Pavel Telicka in Brussels in the autumn.
President Klaus on Thursday will begin talks with the leaders of the Social Democratic Party (the biggest party in parliament), the Christian Democratic Party (the junior ruling coalition partner), and the senior opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats. After a round of talks, Mr Klaus will most likely name acting Social Democrat leader Stanislav Gross prime minister-designate. A day before the talks, President Vaclav Klaus reiterated he would not appoint a government backed by the Communists. In an interview for the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes he also said he believed it would not be possible to form a government from the three ruling coalition parties due to weak support in parliament. President Klaus is the former leader of the opposition Civic Democrats, who won most seats to the European Parliament and are pushing for early national parliamentary elections.
The President's office confirmed on Wednesday that outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla will temporarily take over control of the Justice Ministry. At the beginning of the week, Mr Spidla sent a letter to President Klaus informing him about the "urgent need to ensure the post of Justice Minister" following the resignation of the entire government. Although the current government will continue to administer the country until a new government is named, the post of Justice Minister is empty as no one had been appointed to succeed Karel Cermak who resigned from the post earlier in June.
Sixty-two year-old Karol Siddon has been dismissed as Prague's head rabbi by Prague's Jewish Municipal Council, following increased dissatisfaction over Mr Sidon's role in his post. Regarding the dismissal Municipal Council chairman Tomas Jelinek reportedly praised Mr Sidon's work in the 1990's, but criticised the rabbi for not meeting the demands of his office of late, including responsibilities pertaining to property administration. Mr Sidon told CT, the Czech News Agency, on Tuesday it was possible the Federation of Jewish Communities would strip him of the title of the country's chief rabbi, as well.
Government junior-member the Freedom Union appears set to lose its deputy group by the end of the week: party head Pavel Nemec told journalists on Tuesday that MP Marian Bielesz, had announced he was planning to quit. No final decision, however, has been taken as yet. Another MP, Tomas Vrbik appears set to do the same if the Freedom Union decides to remain in a coalition with its current government partners. Till now the Freedom Union's deputies' group had boasted just ten members: the minimum number of members needed in order for the group to exist.
The Czech Republic have asked the UEFA football association to look into an incident which resulted in the Czech national football side's captain Pavel Nedved receiving a yellow card against Denmark at last Sunday's quarter-final at Euro 2004. Petr Fousek, the general secretary of the Czech Football Association, said on Tuesday the move was not a formal appeal, which is not allowed under the European body's disciplinary procedure, but indicated the matter needed looking in to. UEFA, however, responded earlier than expected, saying Nedved's yellow card would stand.
The leaders of the three parties in the coalition government, which is set
to step down on Wednesday, have met to discuss further options regarding
the current government crisis. Stanislav Gross, the acting head of the
Social Democratic party, Pavel Nemec of the Freedom Union, and Miroslav
Kalousek of the Christian Democrats, all expressed a willingness on
Tuesday for further cooperation, though all conceded they would now have
to wait for a decision by Czech President Vaclav Klaus. If he follows
constitutional procedure, the president is expected to ask the leader of
the largest faction in Parliament, Stanislav Gross, whose Social Democrats
have 70 seats, to try and form a new government.
Besides discussing options on Tuesday all three party leaders rejected future cooperation with the Communist Party and praised out-going Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla.
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