In his first press conference since the fall of the government on Monday, President Miloš Zeman stressed that naming the next prime minister designate and doing so quickly was his responsibility as the head-of-state. The current coalition of the Civic Democrats, TOP 09, and LIDEM officially ended on Monday following the premier’s resignation; the cabinet has been asked to govern for an interim period. As a way out of the crisis, the president could name a candidate from among the Civic Democrats to try and renew the centre-right coalition or could decide on a candidate of his own choosing to lead a caretaker government. The president has also not ruled out the possibility of early elections, but made clear the drawback there would be legislation (due to be discussed by Parliament) being swept off the table. Early elections would also cost the country around 500 million crowns, Mr Zeman noted, would be “thrown out the window”.
Police suspect that around 120 million crowns and kilos of gold seized at a Prague bank last week, part of a broad anti-graft operation, belong to controversial lobbyist Roman Janoušek, according to news site idnes. A police source told the daily that officials suspected the funds had come from illegal activity. Other funds, the lobbyist’s lawyer confirmed, had been seized at his home. Roman Janoušek is one of two businessmen being mentioned in connection to the spying and corruption scandal that ousted Prime Minister Petr Nečas. The investigation is wide-reaching with at least three separate threads that are believed to share a connection through the prime minister’s former chief of staff, herself facing criminal charges.
A group of meteorologists who arrived in the town of Krnov in Moravia have confirmed that a storm that swept through the municipality on Tuesday night was a tornado. The roofs on dozens of homes were blown off and eight people were injured; trees were also felled. The tornado struck practically without warning, causing the damage in the space of just three minutes. Emergency crews and 120 fire fighters were called to the site. A clean-up operation is now underway in the town.
Police questioned Jana Nagyová – the former chief-of-staff to outgoing Prime Minister Petr Nečas – for six hours on Wednesday, her lawyer revealed. The aide, linked romantically to Mr Nečas, has been charged with bribery and abuse of office and is a central figure in the scandal that brought down the government this week. According to her lawyer, Eduard Brun, Ms Nagyová answered questions in detail. Mr Brun said it surfaced during the questioning that his client had not meet with politicians as a state official but as a friend. Ms Nagyová allegedly had the prime minister’s wife and others spied on by military intelligence.
Fire fighters and a waterworks specialist investigated a suspected chemical spill on the Vltava River on Tuesday, described as a gray-coloured “film” roughly three kilometres in length. Originally it was reported that the substance had killed a large number of fish as well as birds, but tests revealed that the substance was not toxic. The animals (sighted by the person who alerted the authorities) most likely died in recent floods that hit parts of the country.
The Civic Democrat leadership has named Miroslava Němcová – until now the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies – candidate for prime minister. Agreement on her candidacy was unanimous, the acting head of the party, Martin Kuba, announced. Mrs Němcová has been a member of the lower house for the past 15 years and is highly-respected as a politician. The leaders of the other two coalition parties, TOP 09 and LIDEM, reacted by saying Mrs Němcová was a sound choice. If all three coaltion parties agree on Němcová, the decision whether to name her as prime minister designate will be up to the president.
Close to half of Prague was affected by a power blackout late Tuesday following an explosion at a transformer station in the capital’s Kunratice district. Thousands of homes were pitched into darkness for close to two hours as the Prague Energy Company worked to renew power lines. The damage is estimated at 100 million crowns, the transformer station which was completely destroyed cost 50 million. Officials have confirmed that a technical defect was the cause.
Detectives from the country’s anti-mafia unit on Tuesday arrested a 46-year-old suspect believed to be one of the most important figures in Georgia’s Kutaisi crime gang. Across Europe, 32 individuals were detained; the group is suspected of blackmail, the planning of murders, and money laundering. Czech police began investigating the gang’s activities on Czech soil in 2011; in 2012, the authorities began cooperation with international law enforcement. Besides arrests by the Czech and Italian authorities, arrests were conducted by detectives from seven additional countries including Hungary, Lithuania and France.
In related news, the president is to meet with representatives of the different parties in the Chamber of Deputies over the course of the upcoming weekend. The meetings, dealing with the government crisis, are to take place at the presidential Lány chateau. The leader of the Social Democratic Party Bohuslav Sobotka and deputy leader Michal Hašek are scheduled for Saturday evening, Sobotka confirmed. Both the Social Democrats and the Communists are calling for early elections and are not in favour of the last coalition returning under a new prime minister. The Social Democrats have also said they would turn down an offer to try and form a government now.
Euro MP Miloslav Ransdorf has paid off debts worth seven million crowns, narrowly averting the forced sale of his Prague villa and an apartment in Záběhlice. The auction had been scheduled for the end of the month. To pay off the funds owed, Mr Ransdorf – a member of the Communist Party – reached a deal with two Czech firms, that loaned him more than six million (to be returned later); the rest of the funds were covered by the MP himself, his lawyer said. Petra Báčová, of the Chamber of Debt Collectors, confirmed the scheduled sale had been called off.
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