Czech President Václav Klaus – who has 80 days remaining in office – has said he intends to remain vocal in Czech and international politics even after completing his second and final term. Speaking on a Sunday debate programme on private broadcaster TV Prima, Mr Klaus also discussed the upcoming direct presidential election. He refused to name his favourite in the field of nine candidates but in the past expressed indirect support for former Social Democrat prime minister Miloš Zeman, who he referred to as the “only real politician” in the group. Earlier, he also expressed fears that a candidate like Tomio Okumara (currently not in the running) or tattooed composer and artist Vladimír Franz would succeed him. Mr Klaus said if he were to openly endorse a candidate now it would be a “kiss of death” for the person in question.
President Václav Klaus said on Sunday that he has lost confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake after the new defence minister wasted no time introducing unexpected personnel changes. During her appointment on Wednesday, Mrs Peake said she was planning no major shake-up; but on her second day in the post, she dismissed first deputy minister Vlastimil Picek, who is a former chief of the general staff of the armed forces, and two others. Mr Klaus said that Prime Minister Petr Nečas had repeatedly assured him that the ministry’s top officials would remain in their posts to secure stability in the defence sector. The prime minister was himself caught off guard by Defence Minister Peake’s rapid move.
In related news, icy conditions led to a nine-vehicle pile-up on the D5 highway in the region of Plzeň on Sunday. Seven automobiles and two trucks were involved in the crash; two people who were injured were taken to hospital. A truck that lost control on the road led to the pile-up. One of the motorists told news website idnes that the highway was nothing more than “a sheet of ice”.
Police in Prague are searching for a suspect between the ages of 30 and 35 believed to have brutally raped a woman near Stodůlky metro at around 12 am on Thursday. Closed-circuit cameras in the metro captured his likeness, showing him repeatedly try to talk to the woman before following her out of the station. After she repeatedly turned down his advances, the perpetrator struck the victim, who had an elbow crutch, repeatedly in the head, before raping her. The victim suffered trauma to her head and is reportedly in poor condition mentally. Anyone with possible information has been asked to contact the police.
In related news, President Klaus on Sunday said that “nothing crazy” would happen if the upcoming direct election to find his successor was delayed and the country was without a president for several weeks. More than two candidates who were unable to register official bids, are petitioning the Constitutional Court over the legislation on direct elections, which could lead to postponing the vote in the second and third weeks of January. Mr Klaus reminded viewers that the country was without a president for more than six months in 1992 prior to the Czech and Slovak split, and for around six weeks prior to his own election.
The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has issued a warning over freezing rain and icy conditions beginning across the country on Sunday evening and lasting through Tuesday. Freezing drizzle is expected to make sidewalks as well as roads far from safe; earlier in the week, when conditions first worsened, the authorities appealed to motorists to drive with extreme caution and to find alternatives to heading out onto the road. Saturday saw a marked rise in both fall-related injuries and car accidents in the capital and elsewhere.
At least five people (possibly six) were injured in an accident during a matinee performance at Prague’s Kalich Theatre on Saturday when a cable, holding actor Jan Kříž, snapped. The actor was injured when he fell into the seats, as well as four in the audience, two men and two women, one of them seriously. All five were treated in hospital. Reports say a six-year-old boy was also hurt but was taken home by his grandmother. The emergency services have appealed to the family to have a doctor look at the child. The spokesman for the theatre, Jaroslav Panenka, said the cable in question had been used in 200 performances prior to the accident. Police are investigating the incident and the cable itself will be assessed by experts. Attendees of the show received refunds while the evening performance was modified.
Petr Hájek, the controversial vice chancellor to current president Václav Klaus, has issued harsh criticism of the late Václav Havel, the playwright and former dissident and president, who died a year ago on December 18. In a TV interview, Mr Hájek indirectly compared the late president to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, suggesting that Mr Havel’s politics had been undemocratic and had favored a non-elected elite. In a recently-published book Mr Hájek slammed Václav Havel as having been “in the service of Satan”. The vice chancellor is no stranger to controversy: in the past he has questioned, for example, who was behind the 9/11 attacks. German daily Die Welt this week dubbed the vice chancellor “court jester” to outgoing president Václav Klaus.
New Transport Minister Zbyněk Stanjura has listed as a top priority for alternatives to be found to the Czech Republic’s “overused” major highway, the D1, connecting Bohemia and Moravia. His stressed as an alternative the building of a major road, the R35, as well rail “corridors”. The minister suggested that such a solution made more sense than adding lanes to the D1 and said such projects would help boost the economy. The D1 highway often comes under criticism for damaged routes and surfaces suffering heavy traffic and transport. Minister Stanjura made clear that any new projects would need to be carefully prepared to avoid unexpected jumps in costs, as was the case in the past.
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