The opposition Social Democrats have initiated a vote of no-confidence in
the centre-right coalition government. The main opposition party argues
that the governing coalition did not sufficiently deal with scandals
related to several of its ministers and no longer has the mandate to
introduce far-reaching reforms. Two weeks ago, the Czech government was hit
by a crisis over alleged corruption practices within the junior coalition
party, Public Affairs, whose unofficial leader, Vít Bárta, was accused of
bribing several of the party’s MPs in exchange for loyalty and silence
about the party’s finances. The scandal resulted last week in Mr Bárta
quitting his post of transport minister while Public Affairs chair, Deputy
Prime Minister Radek John, was replaced as interior minister, and given a
new anti-corruption portfolio.
However, the government is likely to survive Tuesday’s vote of no-confidence as the coalition has a majority of 115 MPs in the 200-seat lower house despite the fact that three MPs, who were expelled from the Public Affairs over their role in the scandal, said they would not support the government in the vote.
The head of the Civic Democrats’ parliamentary club Petr Tluchoř has defended his position after being accused of scheming behind the prime minister’s back. The events surrounding the recent government crisis revealed that he had been meeting secretly with the former head of the Public Affairs deputies club Kristýna Kočí in an attempt to change the balance of power in the coalition government and within the Civic Democratic Party. Mr. Tluchoř was asked to explain his actions behind closed doors on Tuesday in what is said to have been a stormy debate. A vote on whether he should remain in office did not take place, something commentators attribute to the fact that regular elections to the post are due in June.
Interior minister Jan Kubice who took office last week on Tuesday announced the dismissal of two of his deputies – Jaroslav Salivar who is in charge of internal security and Jiří Franc who is in charge of management - citing poor performance in office. Mr. Kubice said that from what he had seen in the past week the present management had problems engaging in what he called constructive communication. Michal Moroz, the deputy for strategy and programme management, announced his decision to leave his post of his own accord at the end of the month. Jan Kubice is a former elite police chief.
The police is investigating a 50-million crown ad campaign commissioned by Prague city hall on suspicion of embezzlement of public funds. The money was intended for a massive campaign to attract more foreign tourists to the Czech Republic. The advertising company which won the competition Onyx Advertising promised slots on foreign TV channels, the foreign press and over the Internet and has now been accused of failing to deliver the goods. The Finance Ministry filed a criminal complaint against the company and the internet news site aktualne.cz claims that a third of the money was embezzled.
A bungled bank robbery by a twenty-year-old man who’d spent all his money on money on money machines over Easter may get him up to 12 years in jail. The man forced his way into the bank early in the morning when there were just two women in the building. He bound them up and locked them in a broom cupboard. As more bank employees came to work he bound those up as well, eventually ending up with seven women locked and bound in a broom cupboard since none of them had the keys he needed. It is not clear how long this would have gone on for had one of them not managed to send an sms message calling for help. When the police arrived the young man jumped out of a window but was soon apprehended.
The Czech Republic will travel to disaster-hit Japan for a friendly soccer international in June after receiving reassurances over potential health risks amid the current nuclear crisis. Stadiums suffered damage while the J-League has been forced to cram a month's worth of games into three weeks in the stifling July heat to make up the backlog of lost matches. The Japan Football Association said on Tuesday that electrical output would be reduced by 10 to 30 percent to reduce the strain on the national grid. The friendly between Japan and the Czech Republic is to take place in Yokohama on June 7.
Prague's Na Bulove hospital has dropped the controversial rule that forbade patients, including parents with children, to wear swimsuits when using the hospital's rehabilation pool. Hospital spokesman Jakub Hofmann said the rehabilation ward's head doctor cancelled the rule on Monday, declining any further comment. Czech TV reported on Friday that several patients complained about the rule; the report said preschool girls were often in the pool at the same time as adult men, as were young boys and adult women. A leading Czech sexologist, Petr Weiss, said that in more conservative countries, the practice could be labeled as sexual abuse of children.
People will not have to memorize their new ID numbers that will be handed out in mid 2112, deputy head of the Czech personal data protection agency, Antonín Šusta told the Czech news agency ČTK on Monday. The country’s authorities are planning to give each Czech citizen a specific identifier; unlike the ID numbers that are currently in use, they won’t reveal the person’s age and gender. Mr Šusta said the new numbers are primarily designed for internal official use, and it won’t be necessary to memorize them. The introduction of new ID numbers will cost some 130 million crowns; the Olomouc-based firm, TESCO SW, recently won a public tender to design and set up the new system.
Sixteen people have died in road accidents in the Czech Republic over Easter; another four people were killed on Thursday. A 73-year-old man, a member of a motocross event organizing team, who died of injuries sustained when he was crossing the track and was hit by one of the racers. The relatively high number of road deaths occurred despite Czech police’ increased presence on the roads over the weekend; traffic police set up more than 150 patrols, focusing primarily on drunk driving and speeding.
Easter Monday, observed as a public holiday in the Czech Republic, celebrates the country’s colourful folklore traditions. Groups of carollers visit the homes of their family members and friends, carrying braided willow sticks, known as pomplázka. They playfully whip girls and women to ensure their good health over the next year, and in return receive coloured eggs, sometimes elaborately decorated. This ancient tradition is believed to have stemmed from pre-Christian pagan rituals. These traditions are particularly alive in the east of the Czech Republic.
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