The head of the deputies club for the coalition party TOP 09, Petr Gazdík, has told the daily Právo that the party is backing Karel Schwarzenberg as an obvious candidate to run for president if direct elections are introduced in the Czech Republic. This week the Chamber of Deputies passed a proposal for the president to be elected by direct vote in the future in a first reading; under the current system the Czech head-of-state is elected in a joint-session of the Senate and the lower house. Mr Gazdík stressed in his interview with Právo that his party would back changes to the election system regardless of whether presidential powers will be changed or left the same. Mr Schwarzenberg, TOP 09’s leader as well as foreign minister, has not yet confirmed he will run, although in past interviews he has expressed an interest.
In related news, others who have been mentioned in connection with presidential bids include former prime minister Jan Fischer and Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar. Civic Democrat Přemyšl Sobotka - on Friday - announced his intention to run. The next election will be in 2013 when President Klaus ends his second and final term in office. But some critics charge that despite this week’s developments, the issue of changing the election system is a non-starter: there is speculation that the coalition and opposition parties will ultimately not be able to agree on changes to the Constitution to pave the way for direct elections.
Police in Ústí nad labem, North Bohemia, are investigating the death of 45-year-old businessman Jiří Čaník, a witness in a case of suspected corruption who was found dead in his home in July, as suicide, Mf Dnes has reported. According to the police, Mr Čaník shot himself in the head; the firearm was his own and was legally-held. A paper trail for millions of crowns, which had been intended for the repair of military barracks, pointed to the late businessman after the company in the original tender declared bankruptcy and some 53 million in state funds went missing. Mr Čaník’s partner has told the local media that they had no money before his death, saying that she had had to borrow from others.
Thousands of motorists have reportedly been heading for NATO Days in Mošnov, near Ostrava in the east of the country, an annual event showcasing NATO and Czech military technology. Traffic jams five kilometres in length or greater have formed as a result, leading to several hour delays. Last year, almost 200,000 people visited the airport in Mošnov for the respected military event and air show. The weekend programme will see some 72 presentations: on Saturday morning visitors were able to see both fighter planes as well as rescue helicopters in action.
The town of Varnsdorf, North Bohemia, on Saturday saw the latest in a series of demonstrations, this time not aimed against the local Romany population but the leadership of the town itself. Around two hundred people gathered on the town’s Edvard Beneš Square between 1 and 3 pm. Unlike several other protests held in the town, the latest was not organised by outside groups – namely right-wing extremists aiming to capitalise on growing social unrest in the area. Mf Dnes reported that on Saturday someone even had a beer stand open at the demonstration – offering ‘reasonable prices’. Police monitored the event; there were no unexpected incidents.
Eight Polish nationals were injured on Friday night when their driver lost control of their mini-van on a highway between Olomouc and Ostrava and went off a 15 metre cliff. Emergency crew members worked to free one of the men from the vehicle, which had overturned on its roof; the others were able to get out by themselves. All eight were transferred to hospital and treated for injuries – some of them serious. Concussions are suspected and one person who had suffered extensive facial injuries underwent surgery. Traffic on the section of highway where the accident took place was temporarily affected.
Czech hockey legend Jaromír Jágr has played his first match since returning to the NHL. Playing for his new team the Philadelphia Flyers in the pre-season, he earned an assist and scored the game-winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings. The Flyers were the visiting team. Jágr’s performance was highly praised by team coach Peter Laviolette. The Czech forward was more critical, telling reporters jovially afterwards that the game was “fast”, adding that he needed to improve.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus addressed the UN General Assembly session on Friday, and rejected unilateral steps in the dispute between Israel and Palestine. Palestine wants to file a controversial application for U.N. membership. Mr Klaus said it took two sides and an innovative approach to overcome old and rigid thinking. A solution, he said, could not come through unilateral steps, whether imposed by the UN or otherwise. The president also used the dissolution of Czechoslovakia as an example, saying that the solution had come from within the region itself, rather than having been brought about by external mediators.
The Czech ambassador to Libya, Josef Koutský, may be returning to Tripoli in October, the Foreign Ministry says. One ministry employee is already in the country assessing the situation and determining security requirements for the embassy. Mr Koubský was withdrawn in February when the insurgency broke out. The Czech Republic recognised the National Transitional Council as Libya’s legitimate representatives in late August. The rapid response force of the Czech police will be facilitating the reopening of the embassy and may remain there on a permanent basis.
The Coalition of Private Physicians reports it is planning a protest aimed at the Health Ministry, which it accuses of reneging on key agreements. The association signed a joint agreement with the ministry in the summer covering cooperation on the preparation of legislation, the earnings of private physicians and moving care from hospitals to outpatient departments. Based on the ministry’s response to a dispute with insurance companies, the coalition - which associates 20,000 doctors – fears that the state plans to earmark a critically low amount of money for private medical facilities in 2012. It also says the Health Ministry has not been consulting changes and proposals with it. Current developments, the coalition says, could threaten the very existence of private medicine in Czech health care.
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