The Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint put forward by smaller parties contesting last year’s municipal election in Prague. The European Democrats, Green Party and Public Affairs, along with eight individuals, had argued that changes made by the prior Civic Democrat-dominated assembly, dividing Prague into seven election districts, had hurt their election chances. Constitutional Court judge Jiří Nykodým, reading the court’s ruling on Tuesday, said the change to the election system had had an impact on the results, but said that the plaintiffs had not been able to prove intent. Last year’s municipal election was won by TOP 09, but the party was left out in the cold after failing to reach a deal with either the Civic or Social Democrats, who eventually agreed to a power-sharing agreement of their own.
The TOP 09 and Green parties have said they will respect the verdict. TOP 09 said they would endeavour to be a strong opposition party in Prague City Hall. The Green Party intends to launch a campaign to change the law on election districts, and have asked their co-complainants, TOP 09 and Public Affairs, to push for an amendment in government, according to chairman Ondřej Liška. The coalition Social Democrats welcomed the decision, saying that the uncertainty in the meanwhile had made for a provisory status.
The Municipal Court of Prague has declared lottery and betting giant Sazka bankrupt. A meeting of creditors is to be held on May 26, after which time the court will rule on a form of bankruptcy administration. Creditors who have not yet reported outstanding debts are to do so within 30 days. According to the insolvency register, Sazka has roughly 1.4 billion crowns in overdue debts owed to 26 companies. The company is primarily overburdened by repayments for the giant sports hall built in Prague for the 2004 world ice hockey championships and has recently had trouble paying its lottery jackpot winners. Sazka itself had also applied to declare bankruptcy.
A fiscal inspection of the Defence Ministry has shown that purchases via intermediaries over the last six years have cost the Army roughly 1.5 billion crowns. Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra told reporters on Tuesday that the waste had been the result of a preference for exploiting available funds rather than fulfilling real needs, and presented an amendment allowing the direct purchase of military technology from abroad. That amendment is one of the key points of the government’s policy statement and the coalition agreement. Military commerce with foreign countries must currently be handled by third party intermediaries.
The news website Euro.cz writes Tuesday that the person with access to the Austrian bank accounts relating to the ProMoPro scandal is a former employee of Defence Minister Vondra. According to the website, Libor Veverka was in the employ of Mr Vondra between 2001 and 2002, when the latter was the government’s representative for the Prague NATO summit. The Foreign Ministry is cited as saying that Mr Veverka was responsible at the time for coordinating the summit’s technical requirements. The company ProMoPro has been accused of charging the government an excessive half-billion crowns for audiovisual equipment during the Czech EU presidency in 2009. About 135 million of that money ended up on Austrian bank accounts. Mr Veverka has denied any association with either Defence Minister Vondra or ProMoPro.
Experts and organisations dealing with human rights and immigrants have sent an open letter to Education Minister Josef Dobeš regarding the potential appointment of Ladislav Bátora as an advisor. In the letter Amnesty International, the Open Society Fund, People in Need and other organisations and educators asked that Mr Dobeš reconsider the choice and select someone who is sensitive to the needs of all social groups. In 2006, Ladislav Bátora stood as a candidate for an extremist right wing party which has questioned the Nazi extermination of Roma communities and advocated “a final solution for the gypsy question".
Former prime minister and Social Democrat Jiří Paroubek has said that he would support a Communist Party initiative to call for a vote of no confidence in the government. Mr Paroubek told the Czech Press Agency on Tuesday that he would vote alongside any party who raised the vote. The government, he said, is disaffecting one group of citizens after another with its social reform policies.
Firemen have been working to install flow-panels in a stream near the north-eastern town of Ústí nad Labem to prevent a minor oil leak from reaching the Elbe. The leak apparently began in a private garden in a nearby village. Four panels in all were installed ahead of the confluence with the Elbe by professional and volunteer firemen; some amount of oil did find its way into the river nonetheless.
A cashier from a supermarket in the northern city of Liberec has given a suspended sentence of two years from stealing nearly half a million crowns from customers’ bank accounts. The 32-year-old mother of three turned herself in to police saying she was a gambling addict and could memorise card numbers after seeing them for only a few seconds. She has since been repaying the money, which was stolen from 33 people and six banks.
In hockey, regular season winners Třinec staved off elimination in their best-of-seven semi-final series against Slavia on Monday, winning convincingly by a score of 6:1. Forward Martin Růžička proved to be a key player in the match, scoring four goals in the game. The win cuts Slavia’s lead in the series to 3:2. The Prague team will have a second chance to close the door on Třinec on Wednesday evening or face a game 7. The winner of the series will meet Vítkovice in the final.
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