Leaders of the coalition government are meeting to try to agree on a solution to the government crisis in the wake of a corruption scandal that has led it to the brink of collapse. All three parties –the Civic Democrats, TOP09 and the junior Public Affairs have pledged to do their utmost to save the pro-reform government and avoid early elections.Seven scenarios are officially on the table and the biggest battle is expected to be over who should hold the Interior Ministry following the proposed dismissal of its present head Radek John of Public Affairs. The junior coalition party is not happy to let the ministry go, but has indicated willingness to discuss an independent candidate for the post. The leader of the party’s deputies’ group in parliament Karolína Peake made it clear however that the party did not want to be fobbed off with unimportant or symbolic posts just for the sake of remaining in government, saying Public Affairs might prefer to support the cabinet from the back benches.
The opposition Social Democrats have requested a special session of the lower house at which they want to table a no-confidence motion against the Czech ruling centre-right coalition. The leading opposition party says the government has betrayed public trust and the only responsible way out of the present crisis is to hold early elections in the autumn. The decision to call a no-confidence vote in the coalition government was approved unanimously by the Social Democratic Party leadership last Friday. The special session is expected to take place after the Easter holidays.
The situation in the Arab world and strengthening of bilateral ties topped the agenda of Czech-Iraqi talks in Prague on Monday. Following a meeting with visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, his Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg said Prague would offer Bagdad its L-159 subsonic assault planes and the upgrading of Soviet-made military helicopters, a sales deal that Iraq has shown interest in. Mr. Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic would also like to participate in the modernization of Iraqi oil-mining equipment. The four-day visit to Prague by the Iraqi foreign minister is to prepare the ground for a visit to Iraq by Prime Minister Petr Nečas in May of this year during which the two countries should sign an agreement on mutual protection of investments and explore further business opportunities.
At a press briefing in Prague on Monday Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil called for the dismissal of the head of Pankrác prison, his deputy and the prison warden over negligence which the minister says enabled one of the prisoners to commit suicide. Minister Pospíšil says the prison failed to do its duty by Otakar T, a forty-year-old man suspected of the rape and murder of a ten-year-old girl in Prague last October. The suspect attempted to hang himself on a rope made from his torn clothes and died later in hospital. The minister says that contrary to its earlier claims the prison had failed to take the usual precautions and the guards on duty had not made regular rounds of the cells which would have prevented the suicide attempt.
Tension is high in the Šumava National Park in southern Bohemia where the park’s management is waiting for a green light from the Environment Ministry to start extensive felling of bark-beetle infested trees. Monitoring groups of environment activists say they have come across thousands of trees bearing orange marks that slate them for felling in what is presently a no-intervention zone. The park’s new director Jan Straský confirmed the reports on Monday, but said that a single tree would not be cut down without permission. Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa is still waiting for an expert analysis from critics of the plan before allowing logging to begin.
A poll conducted by the STEM polling agency indicates that if elections were held today the opposition Social Democrats and the Communist Party would win a constitutional majority in the lower house of Parliament. According to the results of the poll the Social Democrats would win 92 seats in the 200 seat lower chamber and the Communist party would secure 28 seats. The parties of the centre-right governing coalition would have eighty seats altogether – their worst result since taking office.
The police have detained an arsonist who is believed to have started at least two dozen fires in and around the town of Liberec since last May. Investigators say this may not be a final number since more cases are coming to light. The man put close to a hundred lives at risk and caused overall damage to the tune of 1.2 million crowns. If found guilty he may face up to 15 years in prison.
A first grader from the town of Nový Jičín has won the prestigious international art competition Kanagawa Biennial World Children’s Art Contest 2010 in Japan. Six-year-old Oldřich Poul sent an entry thanks to his class teacher and won with a crayon picture of himself teasing his cat with a blade of grass. His class teacher who has encouraged him to develop his talent said she felt like she herself had been presented with an Oscar.
The Czech women’s tennis team reached the final of the Fed Cup for the first time in 23 years after edging Belgium in the best-of-five semifinal on Sunday. The decision came down to the final doubles match between Czechs Iveta Benešová and Barbora Zahlavová-Strycová against Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens, which the Czechs won 6:4, 6:4. The last time the women’s team has competed in the Fed Cup final was for Czechoslovakia in 1988 against the Soviet Union. That team included Czech players Jana Novotná and Helena Suková and the team won. In this year’s final, the Czechs will face Russia. The final takes place on November 5 and 6th.
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