Some six dozen political groups have registered for this autumn’s regional elections. The previous regional elections in 2008 saw 60 groupings, four of which did not run because they failed to meet all election requirements. The elections will show whether the opposition Social Democratic Party will be able to maintain its dominance of all 13 of the Czech Republic’s regions. Apart from the major political parties, extra-parliamentary groups like the Party of Citizens´ Rights of Milos Zeman, Sovereignty of Jana Bobošiková, the Greens, the Pirates and the far-right Workers´ Party of Social Justice will seek the support from voters.
The percentage of Roma children in schools for the mentally impaired has declined in the last two years, according to the Czech School Inspectorate. The institute’s inspection revealed that Roma children make up 26.4% of pupils in such programmes, compared to 35% two years ago. The Czech Republic has faced international criticism for years for the rate at which Roma are improperly diagnosed with serious learning disabilities and send to practical, formerly called special, schools. Since last year parents have had to agree with the placement of their children in such schools. The government and the ombudsman are planning to announce further steps to combat the problem in September.
The outgoing ambassador to NATO and his successor have strongly warned against continued decreasing of military expenditures in the Czech Republic and other NATO countries. In an interview for the Czech Press Agency Martin Povejšil said he considers the situation very serious and that the allies would be faced with a real danger if member states continue to decrease their spending. Jiří Šedivý, who will assume the post in September, said the Czech Republic will have to offer other quality ways of participating in NATO activities if spending on defence continues to decrease and the presence in Afghanistan is reduced. NATO recommends its member states to spend about 2 percent of their GDP on defence. Military spending in the Czech Republic last year, for instance, amounted to only 1.15 percent of GDP.
Czech Olympic champion javelin thrower Barbora Špotáková has advanced to the events final after she threw 66.19 meters in her first qualification attempt on Tuesday. The 31-year-old Czech athlete who won gold at the Beijing Olympics four years ago said her performance left room for improvement in the final. She said her goal was to pass the 70 meter mark. The event’s final is scheduled for Thursday night.
The conservative group D.O.S.T. has asked Prime Minister Petr Nečas to publicly support their protest action against Prague Pride, a week-long festival in support of gay and lesbian rights due to take place next week. The group says it has turned to Mr. Nečas as the leader of a party that has repeatedly advocated conservative and family values. It has also asked for support from Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, who rejected a similar appeal last year. The week of Prague Pride events includes debates, parties and exhibitions and will culminate with a march through the city centre on Saturday, August 18th.The group D.O.S.T. plans to stage its own march in support of traditional family values in the city centre.
Shell service stations around the Czech Republic have dramatically cut fuel prices forcing competitors to follow suit. Shell unexpectedly started selling the top selling Natural 95 petrol for 34,90 crowns per litre this week, approximately two crowns below the average, making some 100 rival service stations cut their own prices. Rival companies have filed a complaint at the anti-monopoly office. Shell has refused to comment on its price policy.
Life at the Shank operating base in Logar province, Afghanistan, is reported to have returned to normal after a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber on Tuesday morning. Thirty four people were reported injured in the attack, none of them Czechs. There are currently some 300 Czech soldiers and civilian experts at the Shank operating base home to the Provincial Reconstruction Team.
A court in Germany has sent a thirty-year-old Czech man to seven years in prison for a number of across-the- border robberies in which he threatened his victims with a machete and breaking into a German bakery shop where he and his accomplice were caught red-handed. His accomplice received a three year sentence. Both have admitted their guilt and will not appeal the verdict.
Senators for the opposition Social Democratic Party will lodge a complaint with the Czech Constitutional Court if the average pension drops below 40 percent of the gross salary, the Speaker of the Senate Milan Štech told journalists on Tuesday. Senator Štech said the complaint would be based on the argument that the Czech Republic has ratified an international convention under which old-age pensions should reach at least two-fifths of gross earnings. The upper house is to debate a government bill that will reduce the growth of pensions as part of a broader austerity package.
The leadership of the TOP 09 coalition party said on Tuesday it fully accepted the presidential candidacy of lawyer Klára Samková. Party deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek said Mrs. Samková was fully entitled to run for president and had not asked for party support. News that the respected lawyer would be joining the presidential race caused some consternation in view of the fact that the party is officially supporting the candidacy of its leader Karel Schwarzenberg. Mrs. Samková, who announced her decision this week, says she is not perceived as a TOP 09 party member but as a dedicated lawyer who specializes in cases involving the rights of minorities.
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