Social Democrat deputy Frantisek Vnoucek resigned on Tuesday for health reasons. Mr. Vnoucek whose health has been very poor in recent weeks said he did not want to risk damaging his party by his absence in the upcoming confidence vote. The ailing deputy is to be replaced by Zdenek Kotous, who is expected to take his deputy's oath on Wednesday.
Two rebel Social Democrat deputies - Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka - have confirmed that they will allow the centre right government to win Friday's confidence vote by absenting themselves from the vote. The two men appeared at a press conference given by Prime Minister Topolanek and said that their main motive was to end the country' prolonged political agony. The prime minister said that he had promised to consult them both on any major reform bills presented to Parliament. Due to the even division of power in the lower house the centre-right cabinet needs support from at least one left-wing deputy in order to survive Friday's confidence vote.
The Central Bohemian regional court has handed down long prison sentences to nineteen members of the so-called "Berdych gang" after finding them guilty of criminal conspiracy, taking part in armed robberies and other criminal acts. The court stated that members of the criminal gang collaborated with two detectives from the anti-organised crime squad between the years 1999 and 2001. The verdicts were issued after a year-long trial. The case of the "Berdych gang", named after the alleged ringleader David Berdych, has been described as the largest case of organised crime in the Czech Republic.
The police have asked for the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Senator Jiri Cunek to be stripped of his immunity pending a criminal investigation. According to the internet server Euro the police have reason to believe that in 2002 Mr. Cunek may have accepted a bribe from a private company to the tune of half a million crowns. Senator Cunek has vehemently denied the claim Saying it was "complete nonsense".
The speaker of the lower house, Social Democrat MP Miloslav Vlcek says he may postpone his resignation, originally planned for Wednesday, until after Friday's confidence vote. The Social Democrats announced last week they wanted Mr. Vlcek's resignation and the election of a new speaker to be put on the agenda of Wednesday's session of the lower house. They proposed Mr. Vlcek's re-election. The right wing parties have criticized the move saying that the Social Democrats were trying to get the upper hand in the lower house in view of a possible third attempt at forming a government should the centre-right government fail to win Friday's confidence vote. The speaker of the house has the right to nominate the prime minister designate in a third attempt to form a government.
A Czech judge has decided not to comply with a decision by the European Court of Human Rights concerning the wrongful placement of two children, claimed by their parents, in foster care. The judge ruled that the Wallas family's two youngest children should stay with foster parents in spite of the Strasbourg court's ruling in October attacking that decision by the authorities. Judge Jaroslava Novotna defended her decision saying there was nothing in the Strasbourg ruling that said the children had to be returned immediately to their parents and said she feared they would undergo a trauma if they were returned now to people who are essentially strangers to them. Strasbourg court rulings are mandatory for governments that have signed the European Convention on Human Rights which Prague ratified in 1993.
According to a poll just out, 59 percent of Czechs disapprove of the scandal surrounding the prime minister's private life. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they did not like the fact that the prime minister had built his election campaign around family-values, at a time when he already had a mistress. Only 15 percent said this was normal election campaign strategy. The prime minister recently announced he was leaving his wife for his mistress, who is expecting a baby.
Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek has appealed to all Social Democrat Deputies not to break party ranks in Friday's confidence vote. In an open letter sent to the two party rebels, who left the Social Democrat deputies group in parliament, Mr. Paroubek urged them to remember the promises they'd made to their voters and uphold the party's policy line.
Culture Minister Helena Trestikova has decided to appoint theatre critic Ondrej Cerny as the new director of Prague's National Theatre. Mrs Trestikova made the decision based on a recommendation by an expert committee which assessed the proposals of five candidates for the post. Former Culture Minister Martin Stepanek dismissed the previous director Jan Mrzena in September, a move which caused a rift between the theatre's ensembles.
A Czech court has ordered a fitness club to pay 70 000 crowns in damages and apologize to a 43 year old homosexual man whom it failed to employ because of his sexual orientation. Lech Sydor said the fitness club promised him the job but backed out when it emerged that he was gay. In a private interview with Sydor the club's manager allegedly told him he could not risk having a gay masseur making passes at the club's male clients. In the court hearings the manager claimed he had found a more-qualified candidate for the position. This is the first time that a Czech court has recognized discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference.
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