The vice-chair of the Civic Democratic Party, Miroslava Němcová, has been elected speaker of the lower house of Parliament. All 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies were present for the secret ballot, in which Ms Němcová received 118 votes, or the exact number of members from the emerging coalition. The runner-up for the position, Lubomír Zaorálek of the Social Democratic Party, received 79 votes. He was elected later Thursday afternoon as deputy speaker, a post which he held in the previous Parliament. The other two deputy speakers will be Vlasta Parkanová of TOP 09 and Kateřina Klasnová of Public Affairs.
The parties negotiating a new centre-right government appear to have clashed over the share out of seats in a future government. The Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs had signed an agreement for a 6:5:4 share out of 15 ministerial portfolios in a future government. But TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg said his party is still sticking to its demand that it have equal weight with the Civic Democrats in terms of overall influence and heavyweight cabinet posts, according to the daily Lidové noviny. TOP 09 deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek has reportedly demanded to be the next finance minister, with the responsibilities of that office undiminished, or threatened not to be in the government at all. Civic Democrats have previously said the prime minister and finance minister should come from the same party.
The leaders of the three parties have signed an agreement to restrict the immunity of members of both houses of Parliament. The proposal would amend constitutional law in order to allow parliamentarians to be investigated for misdemeanours. Each chamber would still be able to refuse to allow their members to be investigated, though such investigations may be made once the parliamentarian completes his or her mandate. The three parties intend to submit the bill to Parliament on Thursday as a joint proposal. They anticipate the support of the Social Democratic Party, without which they lack the votes to pass the measure.
The Senate has proposed modifications to point penalties received for certain infringements of road rules. According to the proposal, points would no longer be deducted for exceeding speed limits by 5 km/h, driving without headlights and driving with a blood-alcohol content of up to .03%. Moreover, the point penalty for failure to wear seat belts or jeopardising other motorists would be increased. While the proposal maintains the “zero tolerance” policy towards drink-driving, offenders would not be penalised with points but with a fine of up to 5,000 crowns. The bill will now be reviewed by the Chamber of Deputies.
In related news, the Senate has backed a proposal to officially recognise active members of the anticommunist resistance. Depending on their degree of involvement, people involved in combating communism would have the position of veterans of war. Such persons would include those responsible for sabotage, assisting escape over the country’s closed borders, organising demonstrations and petitions and persons imprisoned for at least three years because of their ideologies. A similar bill was approved in the Senate in 2008 but was never read in the Chamber of Deputies.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported Thursday that the Minister of Finance, Eduard Janota, has prepared a proposal to cut housing subsidies for 25,000 soldiers by 36%. Preliminary calculations suggest that the measure would save the state one billion crowns per year. According to MF Dnes, security negotiators from the emerging coalition are not opposed to the idea; the Minister of Defence, it says, is aware of the plan but does not intend to comment.
The Dvořák Sec Contemporary Gallery in Prague has filed a suit with the Municipal Court for the protection of a controversial project by the guerrilla art group Ztohoven. Last week, police impounded an exhibit by the group that displayed falsified citizen identification cards. The gallery said on Thursday that it would make every effort to allow the project to be respected as a topical work of art that reflects the period in which it was made. The project, called “Citizen K” (a play on the word “ID card” in Czech) was ostensibly intended to show expose the ease with which personal information can be misused. The members used the falsified IDs to travel, vote and even marry over the course of six months.
The south Bohemian city of České Budějovice has decided to build a two-billion-crown concert hall by the late architect Jan Kaplický and has changed a part of the city’s zoning laws in order to do so. The planned structure, in keeping with the avant-garde style of Mr Kaplický’s work, uses organic shapes to resemble a black sting ray with a triangular ground plan of 1.5 hectares. The Antonín Dvořák Conference Hall, as the building is to be called, will have two concert halls for a total of 1,400 seats.
The Czech counter-intelligence service (BIS), along with other secret services, last year participated in the investigation into the attack on the information systems of the delegates to the G20 summit in Seoul, BIS says in its report for 2009. BIS reports that it uncovered a sophisticated attempt at cybernetic espionage in June of last year, when contact persons at various finance ministries received forged electronic mail containing a harmful code that would have compromised the security of the computers in question and the infrastructure of the attacked organisation. BIS did not report who was behind the attack, but says that a comprehensive analysis of the electronic attack and the harmful code itself has been carried out.
The Czech upper house has voted down a proposed anti-corruption package which would have introduced the concept of a crown witness and agent provocateur. The proposal drawn up by the outgoing Social Democrat minister of the interior, Martin Pecina, was voted against by 43 senators with 25 in favour. Many also spoke against the idea of increased police use of phone tapping and tax returns to counter corruption. The proposal will now automatically fall with a new lower house having been sworn in following elections.
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