The acting head of the Social Democratic Party, Bohuslav Sobotka, has warned fellow Social Democrats not to qualify junior government party Public Affairs as a future coalition partner. He issued the warning in a report to the Social Democrat leadership. Spelling out his vision for his own party, Mr Sobotka said that Social Democrats needed to act as a radical opposition and alternative to the current government. Mr Sobotka is running for the post of party chairman next month against South Moravian governor and MP Michal Hašek. The latter has taken a somewhat more conciliatory approach on the political scene: not long ago, he said that the Social Democrats needed to build up their coalition potential, referring to events last May, when the party narrowly won the national election but was unable to form a coalition.
The Czech newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes has reported that the Defence Ministry bought overpriced and unneeded military technology, citing the results of a recent audit examining ministry spending. According to the daily, in 2000 the ministry ordered radiolocation equipment for 67 million crowns – equipment which it allegedly knew would not have practical applications. In 2007, the system was then sold to a private firm for just 188,000 crowns, Mf Dnes said. The newspaper reported that the then head of the general staff, Pavel Štefka, issued the order for the system to be sold off and pointed out the tender was won by a company represented by a brigadier general who was an acquaintance of the general staff head. The daily has called the circumstances of the tender startling; both Mr Štefka and the brigadier general in question, Michal Pažur, have said they no longer recall the terms of the deal.
Vandals caused 5.5 million crowns in damage to Brno public transport in 2010, a problem to be highlighted by an exhibition opening at the city’s Urban Centre next week. Brno City Hall spokesman Pavel Žára confirmed that damage over four years had dropped by 1.1 million, but said that the number was still high. Roughly half of the damage by vandals to public transport vehicles (of which the Brno transit authority has around 700) comes in the form of spray paint, the tearing of seats, or the scratching of window glass. Vandals also target ticket vending machines and bus stops. The exhibition on vandalism in the Czech Republic’s second-largest city lasts until the end of March.
About twenty people gathered outside the Egyptian Embassy in Prague on Saturday to express support for demonstrators in Egypt and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The event was initiated by Amnesty International. Coordinator Eva Dobrovolná called the event ‘symbolic’ in the light of Hosni Mubarak´s resignation as Egyptian president on Friday. Now, however, it will be necessary to change the whole Egyptian political system, she said. Amnesty International has called on Egypt to cancel the state of emergency and to inquire into the suspected torture of those arrested during demonstrations in the past weeks. The participants in Prague signed a petition calling for the release of all those arrested during the recent demonstrations. Mr Mubarak resigned after 18 days of mass protests against his regime; he had held power for almost 30 years.
The town of Přibram has announced an architectural competition for the renovation of its square, named after Czechoslovakia’ first president, T.G. Masaryk. It has been estimated the project will cost 34.5 million crowns to complete, but most of the cost is to be covered by European funds. The transformation of the square into a vibrant town area should be completed sometime next year, the town’s Mayor Josef Řihák said. Changes planned will include the renovation of sidewalks and roads, as well as the return of historic-style streetlamps. Trees on the square will not be cut but saved throughout the renovation process.
Residents of the Czech Republic’s 3rd-largest city Ostrava, in the east of the country, will now be able to recycle not only materials such as plastic, paper and glass but metal as well, officials announced. The volume of material is not expected to be high but residents wishing to recycle metal items will be able to make use of yellow containers normally reserved for plastic or drink cartons. Gray labels are to outline exactly what items people will be able to get rid of. Once sorted, metal pieces will be processed by local steel works.
Czech player Petra Kvitová reached the final of the Paris Open on Saturday after breezing to a 6-2, 6-0 victory over American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.The world number 18 took less than an hour to eliminate 48th-ranked opponent to set up a final date with Kim Clijsters of Belgium. The Czech player’s last tournament victory was at Brisbane in January. Clijsters, the Australian Open champion, booked her spot in the final with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Kaia Kanepi.
Palác Flora, a mall in downtown Prague, saw professional mountain bikers compete across four floors on Saturday, racing down escalators to lower levels. The event, in its 3rd year, included top Czech competitors in fourcross, one of the newest mountain bike and extreme sport disciplines, where competitors race down levels on a BMX-style track to be first. The best time in the race on Saturday was clinched by current fourcross world champion Tomáš Slavík.
Czech lawmakers in the lower house on Friday succeeded in passing a bill recognising resistance fighters who opposed Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime. The bill passed in a first reading. Under the proposal, members of the third resistance could receive the status of war veterans and receive compensation accordingly. Compensation would be based on the level of past activity, and eligibility would be determined by the Defence Ministry in cooperation with the country’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. InThe bill will now be debated by committees in the Chamber of Deputies over three months instead of the regular two.
In related news, the MP and former head of the Communist Party Miroslav Grebeníček railed against the bill in the lower house on Friday, calling it a ‘political adoration of past terrorist acts’ and saying members of the resistance had often been ‘immature adventurers’. Mr Grebeníček, who led the Communists from 1993 to 2005, spoke for 60 or so minutes, drawing protest from government MPs, who then walked out. The passing of the bill on Friday was opposed by the Communists together with seven members of the opposition Social Democratic Party. Many Social Democrats, however, took issue with details in the bill or how it was formulated, even if they gave it their backing.
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