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19-11-2018

Intense week in politics begins ahead of no-confidence vote Friday

An intense week in Czech politics has got underway ahead of a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s government planned for Friday. The opposition-tabled vote follows a scandal involving Mr. Babiš’s son, who says he was forcibly taken to Crimea to get him out of the way of an investigation over charges of corruption against the prime minister.

Mr. Babiš is due to discuss the situation during talks with President Miloš Zeman on Monday evening. The head of state says he expects the ANO leader to survive the no-confidence vote. However, if he does not Mr. Zeman will task him with forming a new government.

The opposition have 92 seats in the 200-mandate lower house, meaning their vote can only succeed if they win support from coalition partners ANO or the Social Democrats. Leaders of the parties advocating the show of hands are due to meet on Tuesday.

The Social Democrats are due to discuss how to proceed at a meeting on Wednesday. The party’s leader, Jan Hamáček, has already said he wants the present coalition to continue.

The Communists, who back the minority coalition on key votes, are also expected to discuss what course to take.

Babiš: Son remains convinced he was in Crimea involuntarily

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš discussed an affair surrounding his family in a half-hour TV interview on Sunday night. A day after visiting his son, Andrej Babiš Jr., in Switzerland, he told TV Nova that the latter remained convinced that he was taken to Russia and later Crimea against his will.

The son made the claim in a Seznam Zprávy report broadcast last Monday, saying that his father wanted him to “disappear” at a time he was sought for questioning over a corruption case involving the PM. Mr. Babiš says his son is mentally ill and denies having him forcibly removed from the Czech Republic.

Andrej Babiš’s ex-wife also appeared on TV Nova on Sunday. She read a short statement criticising the journalists from Seznam Zprávy who spoke to her son and describing the situation as an “outrageous campaign”.

The prime minister, his son and other members of his family are facing criminal charges of wrongfully acquiring CZK 50 million in EU grants in connection with a hotel and conference complex known as Stork’s Nest near Prague.

Honour for anti-Communist resistance members

Over two dozen people, five in memorium, received certificates asserting their work in resisting the Communist regime in a ceremony in Prague on Monday. Such activities included distributing samizdat literature, founding Societies of Friends of the USA and preparing for armed uprising.

The deputy minister of defence, Alena Netolická, told the assembled that while Communist repression had changed over the decades, its criminal essence remained constant.

The Ministry of Defence has to date recognised over 1,650 people as belonging to what is referred to as the “third resistance”. This entitles them to some financial reward.

Czech internet access grows but still lags European average

Some 80 percent of Czech households have access to the internet, according to figures released on Monday by the Czech Statistics Office. This represents an increase on five years ago, when 67 percent of the country’s households were able to get online. However, this country is lagging behind the European average – which was 87 percent last year – in this regard.

The number of Czechs making use of social media this year reached 4.5 million, a 50 percent increase on 2013.

Revolution anniversary events draw biggest crowds in quarter century

Events marking the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution in Prague on Saturday drew the largest crowds since the establishment of the independent Czech Republic, the organisers of the Festival of Freedom announced on Monday.

Around 132,000 people took part in events at Národní, Wenceslas Square and Albertov. A concert on Wenceslas Square alone drew over 80,000 people, organisers said.

Up to 30,000 of the participants were foreign, with one-third being Slovak. The figures were mainly calculated on the basis of mobile phone presence at the sites in question.

Footballers preparing for key clash with Slovakia

The Czech national soccer team are preparing to face Slovakia in an important game in Prague on Monday night. The hosts need to secure at least one point from the tie to remain in their group in the second tier of the Nations League competition If the Czechs lose the derby with their former federal partners they will be relegated to League C.

Adding spice to the encounter will be the fact that the Slovaks have a new Czech coach, Pavel Hapel. For his part, the hosts’ manager, Jaroslav Šilhavý, led the Czechs to victory over Slovakia in his first game in charge last month.

Ukraine have already come first in the three-team group. The Nations League is taking place for the first time.

Weather forecast

It should be overcast with some snow in the Czech Republic on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching up to 2 degrees Celsius. Daytime highs should rise slightly in the following days.

19-11-2018