Government coalition members the Civic Democrats and junior party Public
Affairs have not yet found a way through an impasse over who should next
head the Interior Ministry, the Czech news agency reported. The Civic
Democrats are pushing for any candidate replacing Radek John to be an
independent, in the aim of cutting-off perceived influence by the
privately-owned detective agency ABL (formerly owned by Public Affairs de
facto leader Vít Bárta). But Public Affairs is continuing to push for
own candidate or for Mr John to stay on.
The party’s deputies’ club leader Karolína Peake said on Sunday that a minority government of the Civic Democrats and Top 09 – supported by Public Affairs – was a possible solution to the current crisis: speaking on Czech TV she said the possibility of her party leaving government was being seriously considered. Vít Bárta, in a separate interview, said that if Public Affairs did stay on it would want renewed guarantees the coalition will fight corruption.
In response to current developments, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Sunday that he preferred for the three-party coalition to continue, although he admitted that a minority government made up of TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats would be acceptable if no other solution was possible. Top members of the three coalition parties are scheduled to hold talks on Monday to try and resolve the crisis to find a way to move forward.
A flash poll conducted by the SC&C agency for Czech TV has suggested
that two-fifths of voters feel disappointment and disgrace over the
on-going government crisis. It began a fortnight ago with allegations that
Public Affair’s de facto leader Vít Bárta had paid bribes to other
party members and that he had entered politics only to make personal gains
in economic power and influence. A third of respondents in the flash query
said they felt anger over the developments; ten percent said they were
either not interested or aware of what was happening.
The upstart Public Affairs surprised many last year when they won 24 seats in the lower house, enabling them to join a centre-right coalition with the Civic Democrats and TOP 09. Until recently they enjoyed a comfortable majority of 118 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The revelations and ensuing crisis, however, have shaken the government to its core. The largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, has already said it will call a vote of no confidence on the government after Easter.
Several dozen demonstrators protested against the coalition government on Saturday by leading a procession from the office of the government to Prague Castle. Protestors carried masks portraying the likenesses of cabinet members as well as a large mock pen with which the phoney cabinet “signed” its resignation. The pen was a reference to a recent video on youtube showing Czech President Václav Klaus conspicuously ‘pocketing’ a pen used for ceremonial purposes during a diplomatic press conference in Chile. The video has become a massive internet hit (with some 4 million views),
The mayor of Liberec Jan Korytář was recalled from his post on Saturday following a secret ballot by city councillors. Twenty-six out of 39 voted for his removal, as well as that of his deputy Jaromír Baxa and councillor Květoslava Morávková; all are from the independent party Change for Liberec. Members of the local Social Democrats charged the mayor was recalled as he had failed to communicate with coalition partners, but the former mayor said the real reason was that he stopped two suspicious commissions (the completion of a pool and renovation of local spas) worth half a billion crowns from going ahead.
Police in the district of Prague 5 are searching for two siblings, a 4-year-old girl and 8-her year-old brother, who went missing on Sunday morning. The children left their home in Stodůlky sometime around 8:30 am, reportedly in response to a family dispute. Police officers have been searching local parks and shopping areas. According to reports, children at one playground confirmed that they had seen the older child but said the 4-year-old sister was not with him. Photographs of the missing children have been posted on the police website, and officials have requested anyone in the area who may have information to contact them immediately.
Tennis player Petra Kvitová has defeated Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer in Charleroi, giving the Czech Republic a 2:1 edge in the Fed Cup World Group semifinal. The Czech player came back after losing the first set 7:5. She won the second 6:4 and the final set 6:2. The match took two hours and 14 minutes to complete. The win gives the Czech Republic a 2:1 edge in the semifinals, with two matches left to play. Záhlavová-Strýcová faces Flipkens in the final singles match on Sunday, and will also play in the double with Iveta Benešová against Belgian players Mestach and Van Uytvanck.
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.
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