Prague Mayor Pavel Bem has become the most popular politician in the Czech Republic, suggests a poll conducted this month by the STEM agency. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had a positive opinion of Mr Bem. Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova has slipped from first to second place in the ratings. Ms Parkanova came in for some ridicule after presenting George Bush with a CD on which she sang backing vocals on a ditty welcoming the idea of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. Pavel Bem, meanwhile, last month became only the tenth Czech to reach the peak of Mount Everest.
A group of students have launched a petition calling on the National Library to maintain an historic reading room at Prague's Clementinum, a short distance from Charles Bridge. Lidove noviny reported that the students were worried the reading room would be moved to a planned new National Library building on the city's Letna Plain. However, library director Vlastimil Jezek described the petition as nonsense. He told the daily that 70 percent of the Clementinum would be used by the library after the move to Letna, and that important collections would remain there.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, has presented 17 individuals and groups with the Gratias Agit award for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic around the world. Recipients this year included film director Milos Forman, the late human rights advocate Irena Kirkland and the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Centre. The Gratias Agit award was first given in 1997.
A rebel Civic Democrat MP, Vlastimil Tlusty, has founded his own ten-member faction within the party's deputies' group. He said he did not want to split the Civic Democrats but rather to support the party's original principles. Mr Tlusty was passed over for the job of finance minister and opposes a government tax and welfare reform bill. If he goes through with a threat to vote against it the government could fall - Prime Minister Topolanek has promised to seek early elections if the package of reforms fails.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a new system aimed at making it easier for citizens to acquire statements from the land register and other official documents. Over 1,000 local authority offices will feature a one-stop "Czech Point", while 2,000 post offices will also join the system. Several Czech Points are already in operation as part of a pilot project.
The government has, as expected, survived a vote of no-confidence tabled
by the opposition Social Democrats. They and the Communists mustered 97
votes, four short of the majority they would have needed to topple the
Civic Democrat-led coalition. The vote came in protest at the coalition's
position towards Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek, who is under
investigation for alleged bribe-taking.
The prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, described the no-confidence vote as a waste of time that could have been devoted to more useful work. During a debate before the vote Mr Topolanek refused to respond to stinging criticism from opposition leader Jiri Paroubek; the prime minister told journalists there was nothing to say.
President Vaclav Klaus welcomed the outcome of the vote. He said it would have caused instability in the country if the government had fallen.
The former Czech international footballer Rene Bolf has signed a three-year contract with his former club Banik Ostrava. Bolf, who is 33, was released by the French club Auxerre after sustaining a serious ankle injury. Meanwhile, Vladimir Smicer is to begin training with his old club Slavia Prague this week. Smicer, who has 81 international caps, says he will sign with Slavia if he does not receive a satisfactory offer elsewhere.
A court in Brno has sentenced a woman to 22 years in jail for the killing of her partner and son. In February Martina Hasikova, who is 36, stabbed her partner to death before two days later trying to kill herself and her five-year-old son by burning their house down. The boy suffocated but she survived. Court experts said the woman had been of sound mind when she carried out the killings.
Agriculture minister Petr Gandalovic has prepared a special bill that ascertains whether former members of farmers' cooperatives have actually got their former property back under the de-nationalisation process which followed the fall of communism. Hospodarske Noviny reports that the private companies from which the cooperatives were formed would be held responsible for any failed returns. Mr Gandalovic tells the paper that tens of thousands of people who had rights to property in the privatisation process have issued complaints. The property in question is worth billions of crowns, he adds. The agriculture minister plans to put his bill forward at a government session in the near future.