Czech MPs have approved an amendment to the constitution that will make it
possible to hold early general elections, most probably in early November.
The move follows a decision by the Constitutional Court, which on Thursday
upheld a complaint by MP Miloš Melčák against a one-off law passed in
order to facilitate elections on October 9 and 10. The new amendment
introduces a permanent change to the constitution that could be used
whenever the lower house wishes to dissolve itself without going through
lengthy procedures. It is expected to be approved by the Senate on Friday
evening or on Saturday, and then to be signed into law by President
Klaus. Under a plan agreed by the main political parties, the Chamber of
Deputies will dissolve itself on Tuesday and the president will call
elections on November 6 and 7.
However, those plans could be scuppered by Mr Melčák. He hinted in the lower house on Friday that he could to go back to the Constitutional Court with the new amendment, once it enters into force.
The Czech Republic has had an interim government since May. There are concerns that a failure to form a new political government in the near future would have serious consequences for the country’s budget for next year; if a 2010 budget is not approved in time, a provisional budget without needed spending cuts would enter into force.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, says he understands Slovakia’s position in the current crisis in relations between it and Hungary. Mr Klaus made the comments after a meeting of the presidents of the Visegrad Four countries at Sopot in Poland on Friday. Speaking about a language law adopted by Slovakia which its Hungarian minority believes is aimed against it, Mr Klaus said he understood why it had arisen. The Czech president said he had noticed what he called Hungary’s long-term enlargement ambitions, adding that he was opposed to any change to the post-war arrangement of Europe, a possible reference to Czechoslovakia’s Beneš decrees, which are a source of rancour for Hungarians.
Speaking in Prague on Friday, the Dalai Lama said it was not possible to force China into becoming democratic – rather such change should come from within, he said. The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader made the comments at a two-day conference on peace in Asia, which was also attended by a leader of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, Rebija Kadeer. She said the international community should pressure Beijing into improving human rights. Former Czech president Václav Havel, whose Forum 2000 organised the conference, said it was intended to show support for human rights activists in China, Tibet, North Korea, Burma and elsewhere in the region.
Czech industrial output fell by 18.2 percent year-on-year in July, following a revised 11.8 percent drop in June, according to official data released on Friday. The fall in output has been attributed to a drop in the production of motor vehicles and various kinds of machinery and metal products. Meanwhile, output in the construction sector fell by 4.4 percent in July, after a slight rise the previous month.
After seven years of increases in the birth-rate, there was a fall in the number of children born in the Czech Republic in the first half of 2009. According to official figures released on Friday, 58,000 babies were born between the start of January and the end of June, 1,600 fewer than in the same period last year. The total population of the Czech Republic grew by over 20,000 to just under 10.5 million in the first half of 2009.
A Polish miner died as a result of a tremor felt in a coal mine in Ostrava on Thursday night. Three others were injured in the Důl Karviná, a spokesperson for the mining company OKD told reporters. He said the firm was doing all it could to increase safety in the mine, but preventing some natural phenomena was not humanly possible.
Two of the Czech Republic’s biggest wine festivals get underway on Friday. The Pálava Festival in the Moravian town of Mikulov and the Historic Wine Festival in the nearby Znojmo are expected to attract around 100,000 people between them over the weekend. The Mikulov festival has been running since 1947, while the Znojmo event began two decades later.
The Czech football referee Dagmar Damková officiated in the final of the women’s European Championships in Helsinki on Thursday, a game in which defending champions Germany beat England 6:2. Damková, who is 34, also officiated in the women’s final at the Beijing Olympics last year. She is the only woman to have refereed top flight men’s football in the Czech Republic.
The Constitutional Court has upheld a complaint made by lawmaker Miloš Melčák which means that early elections will not be held in the Czech Republic as planned on October 9-10. Last week, the court froze a presidential order setting a term for early elections while it examined Mr Melčák’s complaint. The independent MP claimed that early elections breached his constitutional right to serve out his mandate in full, and that said elections were organised in breach of the Constitution. It now falls to lawmakers to decide upon making permanent changes to the Czech Constitution, which they are set to discuss this Thursday or Friday. If proposals to change the Constitution are passed, it is thought that early elections could be held on November 6-7 at the soonest. Should no such changes be agreed, Parliament may well have to wait until lawmakers’ mandates expire next spring.
Czech President Václav Klaus slammed the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Thursday evening, saying that judges had knowingly and deliberately ‘deepened the political crisis’ in the Czech Republic. Mr Klaus said that it was time for the Constitutional Court’s mandate to be redefined. Meanwhile, heads of the main Czech political parties were split in their reaction to the ruling, which cancels early elections originally planned for October 9-10. Head of the Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek said that while he would take Thursday’s verdict into account, he believed that the court had ruled ‘unconstitutionally’. Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek meanwhile said that he ‘fully respected’ the court’s decision, and that his party would now strive for a long-term solution to the problem through changing the Constitution. The ruling was greeted by the heads of the Green Party and the Christian Democrats, Ondřej Liška and Cyril Svoboda respectively.
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