The junior coalition party Public Affairs is in major disarray as calls for the resignation of unofficial leader and Transport Minister Vít Bárta have increased and divisions among party members appear to be quickly multiplying. The head of the party’s parliamentary club Kristýna Kočí has filed criminal charges against Mr Bárta, reportedly because he gave her half a million crowns. Party chairman Radek John has accused Ms Kočí, a close aide, of seeking an in-party coup after learning she had met with Prime Minister and Civic Democrat chairman Petr Nečas on Thursday morning. Mr John says that Ms Kočí ceased communicating with him since a special meeting on Tuesday at which deputy chairman Jaroslav Škárka was expelled from the party. Mr John claims she is coordinating a strategy with Mr Škárka and dissident member Stanislav Huml, who quit the party Thursday evening. Much of the media is speculating that the Civic Democratic Party is making a rapid attempt to canvass Public Affair’s MPs willing to support the government in the event of Vít Bárta’s dismissal from the cabinet. With 24 seats in Parliament, Public Affairs’ continuation in the government is key to the 118-member coalition majority. Opposition leaders have been speaking of pushing a vote of no confidence.
The unpromising situation around Public Affairs deepened on Thursday with a number of new revelations in the daily Mladá fronta dnes. In an interview, Jaroslav Škárka told the paper that in 2006, Transport Minister Bárta used his detective agency ABL, now owned by his brother, to spy on Prague politicians. Mr Škárka, who was expelled from the party on Wednesday over his claims of bribery, under-the-table rewards and intimidation within the party, says that most orders to spy on Civic Democrat politicians came directly from the current transport minister. The former deputy chairman reportedly handed over materials to prove his allegations to the Prague state prosecutor's office on Wednesday, among them an envelope with 170,000 Czech crowns in cash that he claims to have received from Bárta in return for unspecified party activities. Mr Bárta denied the claims on Wednesday, stating that the money Škarka received was a loan. The party has filed a lawsuit in connection with the case and police have reportedly begun investigating of their own accord.
Mladá fronta also charges an economist for Public Affairs, Radim Vyslouzil, of arranging a contract for the ABL agency that the paper suggests may secretly fund the junior coalition party. Under the 2009 contract with construction company Navatyp, ABL received 8.8 million crowns for carrying out a 19-day security check. The paper, which says it possess the contract, points to several unusual circumstances in the contract, namely that the deal was not arranged by anyone in either the supplier or the customer companies. In a note in the contract, Mr Bárta´s lawyer asked that ABL “at least formally fulfil the contract," the paper writes. His brother Matěj Bárta who currently owns the agency said Thursday that the report was incorrect, noting that the cost of the audit was actually five million and that the work took eight months.
The leadership of the elite anti-corruption department of the police is to change significantly after the appointment of the section’s new chief, Tomáš Martinec. According to the daily Právo, two of the department’s deputy directors have resigned in recent days. Tomáš Krůl, who handles special investigations, and economic manager Zdeněk Tomica have left their posts for other positions in the force. Two years ago, Martinec had to leave the department due to disagreements with Mr Krůl and former chief Libor Vrba.
Health Minister Leoš Heger told reporters on Thursday that he will send three reform bills regarding services and an amendment to the public health insurance act for their first reading in Parliament in early June. Among other things, the proposals include a 200 crown patient fee for outpatient care without a doctor’s recommendation, and fees of 90 crowns when visiting a doctor with which one is not registered. As opposed to current practice, the fees are intended to go towards the public health insurance system, meaning that health insurers would pay that amount less for care.
Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Prague Thursday afternoon for the historic first visit of an Israeli prime minister to the Czech Republic. On Thursday evening Mr Netanyahu will be meets with his counterpart Petr Nečas to discuss economic and scientific cooperation between the two countries, as well as the situation in North Africa and the Middle East peace process. On Friday, the two-time Israeli PM and Likud party chairman will be received by President Václav Klaus. The Czech Republic is generally considered one of Israel’s major allies in the EU. Nonetheless, as least one civic association against the Israeli treatment of Palestinians is marking the visit with a series of protests throughout the week. Police have prepared top-level security measures for the two-day visit.
Ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský, the public law investigator, has given parliamentarians a list of eight laws and regulations that he urges be amended. The amendments involve severance pay, annuities for orphans and the treatment of inmates in psychiatric wards, amongst others. The ombudsman reduced the number of proposals to those he considered most essential. Mr Varvařovský’s approach to pursuing legislation differs from that of his predecessor, the late Otakar Motejl, who gave Parliament two to three times more recommendations annually but saw few of them enacted. The new ombudsman has said he will introduce fewer proposals, but insist on their ratification all the more.
A survey on sexuality conducted by the STEM/MARK agency suggests that almost 87% of relationships are complicated by sexual disorders, however only 16% of partners discuss and resolve the problem. 37% reportedly discuss the problems but do not consult a doctor. Such disorders for the most part reside in impotence. The survey of men and women aged 35 to 65 also reported that every third Czech man and 30% of women had had sex in the workplace, most often with a colleague, less often with their superiors. 67% of men and 76% of women said they had their first sexual encounter between the ages of 15 and 19.
Some 500 people have gathered at Moravské náměstí in Brno to protest the government’s reform plans. The demonstrations were organised by nine organisations, among them the umbrella confederation of trade unions. Speakers complained that the government has tried to present the reforms as the only possible way to save the country from IMF creditors, that the reforms will lower the standard of living for most and particularly pension reform, which some see as putting tens of billions of public money into private funds.
The 20-year-old son of former Prague mayor Pavel Bém has had to undergo surgery to amputate part of his right arm after an accident several weeks ago. The young man suffered severe damage to both hands after falling from a statue in Prague city centre in the early hours of the morning. A part of the statue had broken off and landed on him. Doctors at a specialised plastic surgery department in Vinohrady were able to save his other hand.
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