Prague councillors have cancelled a costly contract to reconstruct the city’s Industrial Palace and part of the Výstaviště trade fair grounds. The deal, signed by a previous city government, put the price of renovation at over CZK 3 billion, including CZK 200 million for the architectural firm that designed it. A recently installed city government says it wants to find a cheaper way to repair the palace, which was badly damaged by fire five years ago, along with other historical buildings and the grounds. Tuesday’s decision means that the future of Výstaviště, which is a listed landmark, is unclear.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, has said that Mr. Hašek’s conditions merely represent his own opinion and are not the official position of the party. The news website Novinky.cz quoted Mr. Sobotka as saying that the Social Democrats would only decide on a position, if – as expected – a vote on Wednesday on the dissolution of parliament proves unsuccessful. Mr. Hašek is believed to have closer ties to President Miloš Zeman, who appointed the Rusnok government, than Mr. Sobotka does.
Three former Civic Democrat MPs accused of taking bribes are set to be
released and will not face trial. The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that
Petr Tluchoř and Marek Šnajdr were covered by parliamentary immunity at
the time the alleged offence took place. The verdict also relates to the
third former deputy, Ivan Fuksa, who did not petition the court. The
decision of the court, which only examined the issue of the MPs’
parliamentary immunity, cannot be appealed. When the three, who were
opposed to a government tax bill, quit the lower house last year, the move
prevented the fall of Petr Nečas’s cabinet. Soon afterwards they
received lucrative positions at semi-state agencies. While the state
attorney’s office said that amounted to bribery, Mr. Nečas suggested
“I scratch your back, you scratch mine” deals were a regular part of
The ex-deputies were taken into custody a month ago as part of an extensive police operation that also saw the charging of Jana Nagyová, chief aide to then prime minister Nečas, with mediating the alleged bribery and other offences, a situation that led to the fall of his government. The police questioned Mr. Nečas in connection with the matter at the end of last week.
The Czech lyricist and poet Václav Fischer died on Monday at the age of 87. Fischer received state honours for his participation in the resistance during the war, but was punished for that same activity by the Communists following their takeover; he was sent to an army unit that was effectively a prison camp before being forced to work as a labourer. However, he later became known as the author of the lyrics of a great number of popular songs, including hits by the likes of Waldemar Matuška, Eva Pilarová, Hana Zagorová, Jiří Korn and Olympik. He also wrote a number of illustrated poetry books for children.
The acting chairman of the Civic Democrats, Martin Kuba, says he will support Miroslava Němcová becoming the party’s leader for the next election campaign. Mr. Kuba made the comments in an interview for the news website iDnes.cz, adding that the next party congress at which senior positions would be contested was scheduled for after elections likely to take place next May at the latest. The Civic Democrats and the other two parties from the former coalition are pushing for Mrs. Němcová to become prime minister if candidates nominated by the president prove unsuccessful. Mr. Kuba became acting leader following the resignation of Petr Nečas, who was forced to quit as prime minister when his girlfriend was charged with bribery and spying.
The deputy leader of the Social Democrats, Michal Hašek, has presented three conditions for his party voting for the interim Czech government, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Tuesday. At a meeting with Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok, Mr. Hašek said Finance Minister Jan Fischer would have to clear up questions surrounding sponsorship of his failed presidential campaign; the government’s policy programme would have to share the priorities of the Social Democrats; and the government should remain in place only until early elections in the autumn. However, regarding the final condition, Mr. Hašek said that talks on dissolving parliament could continue even after a confidence vote, and a vote on dissolution could be repeated at any time. At present it appears unlikely any such vote would succeed.
Former Communist leader Miroslav Grebeníček has been placed ninth on the party’s list of candidates in the South Moravia region, the news website Novinky.cz reported. The low placing means he will have little hope of winning re-election to the Chamber of Deputies at the next elections. Delegates at the meeting said the move resulted from a wish to rejuvenate the party. However, Mr. Grebeníček, who is 66, said he did not wish to stand in any case. Regarded as a hardliner, he was chairman of the Communist Party from 1993 until 2005. He has held a seat in the lower house since 1996.
President Zeman says that Finance Minister Jan Fischer should be as transparent as possible when it comes to explaining the origin of the financial donations that cleared his debts arising from an unsuccessful presidential campaign. Mr. Zeman made the comments on Tuesday, a day before Mr. Fischer was expected to provide documentation from his sponsors as to the origin of around CZK 5 million they gave him – much of it in cash – in the week before his appointment. The minister insists his campaign account is transparent and was initially reluctant to discuss the matter. However, he asked the sponsors to show where the money came from after pressure from a number of political parties.
The trial has begun in Prague of influential businessman Roman Janoušek, who faces charges of attempted murder for allegedly running over a woman last year while in a state of inebriation. He later fled the scene. On Tuesday morning, Mr. Janoušek read a statement to the court asserting that he had not seen the woman and had hit her accidentally. He said that the incident had occurred at a time when the media were carrying transcriptions of wiretaps of his conversations with former Prague mayor Pavel Bém and that this had made him agitated. The wealthy businessman requested that the rest of the trial take place in his absence and refused to answer questions from the court or the state attorney.
The Czech title-holders Viktoria Plzeň beat Željezničar Sarajevo 4:3 at home in the first leg of a Champions League second qualification round tie on Tuesday evening. Plzeň went behind early in the second half when the visitors opened the scoring before eventually taking a 4:2 lead; Željezničar scored again with only five minutes remaining, but the hosts managed to hold out and take all three points. The West Bohemian club reached the Champions League for the first time two years ago and last season topped a group in the Europa League that also included Italy’s Napoli.
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