Prime Minister Petr Nečas has indicated that he should be the one to
nominate the country’s next interior minister, albeit with support from
all three coalition parties. In an interview for Lidové noviny on
Saturday, the prime minister said that he already had a concrete candidate
in mind, someone not politically-affiliated who could replace Radek John
Public Affairs. Mr Nečas made clear that under his plan the choice of Mr
John’s successor could be vetoed by any of the three parties. But the
three coalition members - the Civic Democrats, TOP 09, and Public Affairs
will still have to agree on how to proceed.
The government is in a difficult position following a corruption scandal which erupted roughly a fortnight ago that has seriously damaged its credibility. In response to allegations of corruption involving members of Public Affairs, the prime minister demanded the resignation of two of its ministers. A third, Transport Minister Vít Bárta, resigned earlier. A major concern for the prime minister has been the alleged infiltration in the state sector of people connected to private security company ABL, a firm formerly owned by Mr Bárta, which now belongs to his brother.
In related news, outgoing Interior Minister Radek John has suggested in an
interview for Právo that he never would have gone into politics had he
known some of the “awfulness” involved. In the interview, former TV
presenter and journalist who successfully led the upstart Public Affairs
party on an anti-corruption platform to 24 seats in the election last
expressed disgust over some problems, but said he remained committed to
cleaning up corruption.
Public Affairs are trying to hold on to the Ministry of the Interior, but Mr John suggested in the interview that the party could still be part of the government and not hold any ministerial seats. He said that the government’s programme, not posts, was more important. Leaders from the three coalition parties are to continue talks on Monday to try to resolve the current crisis to avoid a collapse of the cabinet that could pave the way for early elections.
Bohuslav Sobotka, the leader of the Social Democrats – the country’s largest opposition party aiming to call a vote of no confidence on the crisis-hit government – has said he hoped his party would gain more than 30 percent of the vote if it came to early elections. According to the leader in an interview for Mladá fronta Dnes, the left-wing party should get back voters lost in the last election in 2010 but he allowed that a number of ‘unknowns’ remained. Regarding the current government, Mr Sobotka rejected any kind of cooperation with troubled junior party Public Affairs, and made clear cooperation with the right-of-centre Civic Democrats and TOP was highly unlikely. In the interview he said the government was losing its moral credibility.
Czech doctors have come out against health care reform plans unveiled by Health Minister Leoš Heger at a conference in Průhonice near Prague on Saturday, charging the proposals gave too much power to health insurance companies. Under the plan, insurance companies could terminate contracts with private practitioners without having to provide a reason, something the head of the Czech Medical Chamber Milan Kubek said he was strongly against. The fear is that such changes would leave private practitioners at high risk, forcing them to toe the line regarding insurance companies. The Medical Chamber on Saturday also slammed plans for health care fees for visits to the doctor’s to be transferred directly to health insurance companies. Other changes proposed include raising the cost of visiting a specialist from 30 to 200 crowns for those without a referral from their GP.
Roger Waters – the legendary former frontman and co-founder of rock band Pink Floyd – performed the first of two concerts of The Wall Live at a Prague stadium on Friday evening. Both concerts were sold out. The Wall is a classic double-album dating back to 1979 that was later also made into a cult film by Alan Parker. On Friday Mr Waters and fellow musicians performed more than twenty tracks from the original record, including Hey You and Comfortably Numb. A large inflatable pig – a classic Pink Floyd “trademark” – hovered above the crowd during the concert’s second half.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Prague for a three-day visit. On Friday he was received by President Václav Klaus at Prague Castle. The two discussed the situation in Libya and Northern Africa in general for about one hour. Mr Ban then met with Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda and the heads of the houses of Parliament, Milan Štěch and Miroslava Němcová. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will be holding a dinner in the secretary general’s honour on Friday evening in Černínský Palace. The head of the United Nations is to remain in Prague on a private agenda until Sunday.
Regarding the ongoing government crisis, President Klaus also met with
opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democratic Party on
to discuss that party’s plan to call for a parliamentary vote of no
confidence against the government. The party’s MPs voted to support the
proposal on Thursday. Mr Sobotka told the Czech Press Agency on Friday
the Social Democrats would not seek to form their own government should
government collapse, but would push for an agreement on early elections.
The vote of no confidence is set to be held after Easter.
The current crisis was triggered when de facto Public Affairs leader Vít Bárta was accused of in-party corruption and of using the party to further the interests of his family’s detective agency. Mr Bárta offered his resignation and the prime minister sacked two of his party allies – Interior Minister Radek John and Education Minister Josef Dobeš. President Klaus has however refused to endorse the shakeup until the PM offers a “plan B”. The crisis deepened further this week when a secret recording emerged, suggesting that the Civic Democratic had organised the situation within Public Affairs.
Meanwhile, attention has turned again to Public Affairs chairman and Interior Minister Radek John, who said that he had received details on meetings between Public Affairs rebel Kristýna Kočí and senior Civic Democrat Petr Tluchoř from the police. Mr Tluchoř accused John on Friday of using the police, which the Interior Ministry controls, to monitor the activities of parliamentarians. Mr John says he received the information on the matter by email from an anonymous policeman. Prime Minister Nečas commented on the situation by saying he wanted to believe it was the work of one “enterprising imbecile”, rather than misuse of office.
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