President Vaclav Klaus accepted the resignation of Stanislav Gross as Prime Minister on Monday, ending weeks of political crisis. The Cabinet was also dissolved, as is required by the Constitution, when a prime minister resigns. Before tendering his official resignation, Mr Gross' party, the Social Democrats, and their coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, signed a deal for a new government. The incoming prime minister is Jiri Paroubek, a vice chairman of the Social Democratic party who was the Regional Development Minister in the previous government.
Stanislav Gross, a former interior minister, had led the government since last July; he remains Social Democrat party chairman. Calls for Mr Gross' resignation came after media coverage revealed that he had spent more to buy his Prague apartment than he could have afforded on a government salary. Mr Gross had offered several, contradictory explanations of how he had paid for the apartment. The controversial business dealings of his wife had also become a political issue.
President Vaclav Klaus said on Monday after naming Jiri Paroubek to his new post that he expects the lower house of Parliament to hold a vote of confidence on the new government as soon as possible. The incoming prime minister has said that his government - as per agreement of the three coalition parties - will focus on pushing through pension reform, lower taxes on employees, new bankruptcy and conflict-of-interest laws, and the 2006 state budget. Another top priority is the ratification of the draft European Constitution.
The newly named Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, has told two leading Czech dailies the Social Democrats could rule together with the Communist Party at some point in the future. Mr Paroubek told the papers he thought the right-of-centre Civic Democrats posed a far greater danger than the Communist Party today. In terms of a time-line Mr Paroubek says he imagines the Social Democrats and the Communists could open cooperation on the government level in the next five to nine years.
In other news, a member of the royal family of Qatar and long-time resident of Prague was brought before a Czech court on Monday to face charges of sexually abusing underage girls. Qatari Prince Hamid bin Abdal Sani has been in custody for six months. He has been resident in Prague for ten years running a private business and does not enjoy diplomatic immunity. According to the Czech police, Prince Sani paid two adult women to procure underage girls for him on a daily basis. The girls, most of whom were between 12 and 15 years of age at the time, were paid the equivalent of about $80 per visit - while the adult women, who also face criminal charges, were paid some $40 for each girl they delivered to the Qatari prince.
In business news, the Czech Telecoms Office (CTU) has ordered the dominant fixed-line operator Cesky Telecom to cut the flat charge on its basic programme slightly and to cancel "free minutes" bonuses granted to its users. The telecoms market watchdog reportedly agreed found merit in complaints by alternative operators that Cesky Telecom's bonus system was confusing to its clients and therefore discouraged people from switching to rival -- and cheaper -- operators.
Grey skies are going to clear up - at least for Tuesday - but light rain is again in the forecast for later in the week. Temperatures should remain in the low teens.
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