The upper house of Czech Parliament voted in favour of a proposal for a
constitutional complaint against President Miloš Zeman. The proposal
received 48 votes on Wednesday, while 20 senators voted against and 7
abstained. If the proposal also receives support from the majority of the
lower house, it will reach the constitutional court. However, this is
unlikely, due to the ruling ANO-Social Democrat coalition, supported by the
Communist Party, holding a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. The Freedom
and Direct Democracy Party, which seems likely to support the president as
well, controls a further 19 seats.
The impulse for the draft complaint is the alleged influencing of the judiciary by President Zeman and his staff. The president’s recent unwillingness to accept the resignation of Culture Minister Antonín Staněk has also been added into the complaint.
In mid-June President Zeman dismissed the accusation, saying that it was a sign of constitutional illiteracy.
The Communist Party leadership is due to meet with representatives of the
ANO party on Tuesday to assess to what extent the minority government of
ANO and the Social Democrats is fulfilling the tolerance agreement with the
Communists which has enabled it to govern.
The Communist Party has tolerated the government in return for policy concessions and support for its own stated policy priorities, such as a tax on church restitutions and increased expenditures in the social sphere.
The Communist Party has so far shown no indication that it might withdraw this support over the scandals surrounding the prime minister or the drawn-out crisis concerning the culture minister.
The opposition parties have criticized the drawn-out political conflict,
calling it a theatre of the absurd and arguing that the present government
is harming the country’s interests by a never–ending series of scandals
that prevents it from focussing on the country’ real problems.
The head of the Pirate Party, Ivan Bartoš, says it is not the culture minister who is at the core of the problem, but Prime Minister Andrej Babiš who is suspected of EU subsidy fraud and unwilling to stand up to the president.
Miroslav Kalousek, head of the TOP 09 deputies group in the lower house, argues that the present head of state has no respect for the Constitution and is being left to do as he will.
The Social Democratic party is divided over how to proceed in the drawn-out
dispute over a change- of-guard at the Culture Ministry, with mounting
calls for the party to walk out of the government if the coalition
agreement is not fully respected. The party leadership is to meet on Monday
to decide how to proceed in the matter.
The Social Democrats‘ decision to effect a change at the post of culture minister has been thwarted by President Miloš Zeman, who first refused to accept the incumbent minister’s resignation and then ignored a request by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for his dismissal and replacement by the party’s chosen successor.
At a meeting on Friday between President Zeman, Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček and Culture Minister Antonín Staněk, the president said he would accept the culture minister’s resignation on July 31st and would await the result of the Social Democrat leadership meeting on Monday as regards his successor. The party has already nominated Michael Šmarda for the post, a choice that the president does not approve of.
In line with the coalition agreement between ANO and the Social Democrats each party is fully entitled to decide who will be in charge of their given portfolios.
Charges have been filed against a Prague prosecutor for allegedly taking
bribes in 2013 from a former judge, who is now in prison on corruption
charges, Czech TV reports.
The prosecutor, Pavel Suchánek, was acquitted in October on charges that he took a bribe from Ondřej Havlín, a judge who earlier served as an ambassador to Croatia and later Bulgaria.
Six others prosecutors had faced charges in 2013. Only one was sentenced.
The Czech lower house of Parliament has approved a cabinet proposal that
would see medical marihuana mostly covered by public health insurance.
According to the proposal, which will now go to the Senate, insurers would cover 90 percent of the cost of for medical marihuana per month on a maximum of 30 grams per patient.
MPs rejected an amendment by Pirate deputy Tomáš Vymazal to make the payment 100 percent and set the monthly limit at 180 grams.
The state collected over one trillion crowns in taxes last year, which is
62 billion more than in the previous year, the Czech News Agency reported
According to the state’s final account, presented by the government in the Lower House of Parliament, some 727 billion crowns ended up in the state budget and 295 billion crowns were earmarked for regions and municipalities. Nearly 20 billion crowns went to the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure. Collection of VAT and personal income tax recorded the steepest growth in 2018.
The Senate has established a special commission to assess the European
Commission audits concerning Prime Minister Andrej Babiš's suspected
conflict of interest which could mean that the Czech Republic might have to
return close to half a billion crowns in EU subsidies.
The commission, headed by Zdeněk Nytra from the Civic Democrats' senators' group, does not have the status of an investigative body, it will merely analyse available information on the case.
The two EC audits, which are both preliminary, claim that the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest due to continued influence on the agro-chemical business conglomerate Agrofert which he established and later put in trust funds in order to comply with a strict new conflict of interests law.
Prime Minister Babiš has denied any wrongdoing, saying he fully adhered to Czech law.
Following a preliminary audit from the European Commission, which found the
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to be in a conflict of interest due to
the structure of the trust funds currently owning his former company, the
opposition has proposed a Senate commission on the matter. It will be made
up of two members from each party in the upper house and give an official
verdict on the matter at the end of January.
Opposition politicians have stressed the commission’s task will not be to evaluate the audit, but to interview relevant actors and come up with its own position, both on the alleged conflict of interests of the prime minister and the Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Toman, who was mentioned in a second European Commission audit.
The Senate is set to vote on the proposal on Thursday.
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