Czech politicians have agreed to amend the constitution quickly after the
Constitutional Court threw the date of early elections into doubt. On
Tuesday the court said it needed more time to deliberate on the
constitutionality of an amendment passed by the Chamber of Deputies
short its last term. Consequently, judges suspended a decision by Czech
President Václav Klaus to hold elections on October 9 and 10. But after
chairing a meeting of party leaders and senior constitutional figures at
Prague Castle on Wednesday, Mr Klaus said they had not accepted the idea
that early elections had been lost. He said an expert group would draft a
constitutional amendment within hours or days.
This unprecedented situation arose after the Constitutional Court received a complaint by independent MP Miloš Melčák; he said the amendment bringing the previous parliament to an end violated his right to serve out a full four-year term.
The Czech Republic’s best known opponent of daylight saving time, Stanislav Pecka, has died. For nearly three decades Mr Pecka campaigned against the practice of getting more light out of the day by advancing clocks by one hour in summer, even taking a complaint against the system to the European Court of Human Rights. He began fighting the concept in 1981, two years after daylight saving time was introduced in Czechoslovakia. Mr Pecka believed the system was injurious to health.
Political scientists say the constitutional crisis may harm the country’s two biggest parties when elections are eventually held, the CTK news agency reported. They believe that increased voter disillusionment could lead to less support for the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats, CTK said. Pundit Rudolf Kučera said those parties representatives may pay for appearing more concerned about the millions they could have wasted on campaigning than about the country’s constitutional order. The big parties have pledged to go on campaigning.
Twenty-three Czech and Slovak holidaymakers were injured when a coach they were travelling in crashed in Turkey on Tuesday. Seven of those taken to hospital have undergone surgery, while two more were awaiting operations. None of the injured are suffering from life-threatening complications. The accident occurred when the bus, which was carrying 43 people, went off the road in a mountainous area 70 kilometres from the resort of Antalya.
In other news, the Slovak-owned low-cost carrier SkyEurope, the second largest airline at Prague Airport, has gone bankrupt. Several hundred Czech citizens remain stranded abroad by the sudden closure, which has left another 7,000 clients with non-refundable tickets, as Prague’s Ruzyně Airport said it would no longer dispatch SkyEurope flights due to unsettled payments. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it is assisting the stranded travellers, and that most have already purchased return fares at their own expense. SkyEurope operated dozens of flights daily to 21 European cities.
Russian spies in the Czech Republic use methods that were employed by the
Soviet intelligence in Western Europe in the 1980s, according to the
report of the Czech Intelligence Service BIS released on Monday. The
said that last year Russian espionage activities in the country were on
rise, and specifically focused on US plans to build part of an American
anti-missile defence shield in the Czech Republic. The Czech secret
said that Russian exponents contacted Czech politicians, particularly MPs,
their assistants and the staff of Czech political parties. The report also
notes that Russian spies, who are covered as diplomatic staff at Russian
embassy and consulates, employ methods used by Soviet espionage in Western
Europe in the last decade of the Cold War to influence the peace movement
of the time.
Earlier this month the Czech Republic expelled two Russian diplomats for alleged spying. Russia then retaliated by expelling two Czech diplomats from the Czech mission in Moscow.
An historical train left Prague on Tuesday on a four-day journey marking the 70th anniversary of the Winton transports, which brought hundreds of predominantly Jewish children to safety in London at the outset of WWII. On board were a number of the original passengers themselves and their families, and the daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton, who organised and funded the 1939 rescue transport. Sir Winton himself will be meeting the train upon its arrival in London on September 4. The departure ceremony also included an unveiling of a statue of Winton at Prague’s Main Station. Descendants of the 669 children rescued by Nicholas Winton number over 5,000.
President Václav Klaus has called the ruling an unprecedented measure
that was entirely political and would have a fundamental impact on the
political system in the country. The president also stated he will work to
find a speedy solution to the crisis caused by Tuesday’s ruling.
Interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer, who has been leading the country since the centre-right government of Mirek Topolánek lost a vote of no confidence in March, said he has taken the decision into account but had no immediate comment.
Civic Democratic chairman Mirek Topolánek spoke of an absurdity of record proportions, adding that the ruling could impact negatively not only on the country’s political development, but also on the current economic crisis.
Jíři Paroubek, head of the Social Democratic Party said that the decision went against the interests of Czech citizens and the country needs a stable government at a time of crisis.
The leader of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda, has said that doubt over early elections demands the immediate creation of a new political government, as the current caretaker government was only named to see the country through to early elections.
The parties were united in calling for cooperation to resolve the matter swiftly, and have asked the Constitutional Court to do likewise.
The Czech government outlined on Monday a series of cost-cutting measures
to curb what looks set to be the biggest deficit in the country’s
history. PM Jan Fischer told reporters that the cabinet will debate these
bills at its next session on September 9. Mr Fischer said that if these
proposals are not approved by the lower house of the Czech Parliament, the
government will draft a 2010 budget with a deficit of 230 billion crowns,
or nearly 13 billion US dollars.
While the prime minister said the caretaker government felt responsible for curbing the looming record deficit, leaders of the two strongest parties, Social Democrats and Civic Democrats, said earlier their parties would not support the planned measures in the lower house.
The antidiscrimination law passed by the Czech Parliament in June takes effect Tuesday. The law, which defines discriminatory conduct and emphasises equal opportunity, was crafted to bring the Czech Republic into line with EU norms. The Czech Republic was expected to pass an antidiscrimination act in 2004 upon entry to the EU, however it was vetoed by President Klaus, who called it unnecessary as basic rights were already covered by the constitution and other acts. The Czech Republic was the last European state to pass the prescribed antidiscrimination legislation.
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