The leaders of the three ruling parties will meet on Tuesday for talks on the future of the centre-right government, after a crisis precipitated by the junior Public Affairs party brought it to the brink of collapse. The smallest party in government has demanded far-reaching concessions from its coalition partners, including a revision of the government’s policy programme and a reduction of the number of ministries as an alternate cost-cutting measure. The prime minister’s Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have indicated that while they are prepared to make some concessions the government’s main fiscal policy goal – a gradual reduction of the deficit in public finances – is not negotiable. A break-down of the talks on Tuesday would open the way for early elections. Czech TV reported over the weekend that both the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have been preparing for such a possibility.
A flash poll conducted by the internet daily lidovky.cz indicates that the vast majority of Czechs want early elections. Over 70 percent of respondents opted in favour of early elections, just over 20 percent said they wanted the three ruling parties to patch up their differences and less than 8 percent said they would prefer a minority government of the two senior parties –the Civic Democrats and TOP 09. An opinion poll conducted by Factum Invenio late last week shows that left wing parties have been gathering strength in recent months. If elections were held today, the opposition Social Democrats would win 26.9 percent of the votes, and the Communists would get 14.9 percent. If the main opposition party chose to enter into a coalition with the Communists they would have a comfortable 111 vote majority in the lower house.
The Ombudsman has criticized what he calls “fast-track” extraditions of foreigners at Prague’s Ruzyne Airport. Pavel Varvarovsky says that his office has looked into several complaints and found that in many cases foreigners do not get a proper interpreter and are not fully informed about their rights before being extradited from the country. The Ombudsman says that some are not given a chance to contact their lawyer and NGOs advising foreigners do not have access to the offices where these cases are dealt with. He has urged the authorities to put matters right, saying that extraditions where foreigners’ rights are violated are illegal.
The Office of the Senate has said the proposed slash of funds for the operation and maintenance of the upper chamber in 2013 is excessive and wants to try to negotiate what it calls a more realistic figure. Senate Chancellor Jiri Uklein told the CTK news agency on Monday that under the finance ministry’s proposal for next year the Senate would be short of approximately half the money annually needed for maintenance and operational costs. This year the Senate received just over 525 million crowns from state coffers, the plan for next year is that it should get just over 447 million. The chancellor says the institution needs another 64 million to meet its basic needs.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the man arrested at the airport of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Friday night for drug possession is a Czech citizen. The man’s nationality was unclear after the Himalayan Times described him as a Czechoslovak citizen. He was reportedly smuggling some 3.5 kilos of marijuana hidden in a secret compartment in his luggage to Prague. According to The Himalayan Times, police are investigating the source of the drug and searching for possible ties to international drug cartels.
A frosty Easter Monday broke temperature records in many parts of the country. Monitoring stations recorded a record night low of minus 22 degrees Celsius in Jizerka in the north of the country, with temperatures in the Sumava mountains in southern Bohemia and in the Moravian Highlands also dropping to minus 20 degrees. A monitoring station in the town of Opava recorded minus 8,2 degrees Celsius, the lowest measured on that day since 1888. Decades-old records were broken in many parts of the country, with snow reported in the lower altitudes.
A baby girl was left in a baby box in a Jihlava hospital early on Easter Monday. The newborn was placed in an incubator and is reported to be doing well. She has been provisionally named Mary Easter and the authorities are waiting to see if her parents do not turn up to reclaim her before putting in motion the process of her adoption. Mary is the 71st child to be placed in what is now a network of baby boxes around the country. The institution still has its critics who claim that baby boxes make it too easy to abandon a child, but its defendants point out that it has saved the lives of many babies who might otherwise be abandoned out in the cold.
Senior officials from the junior coalition member Public Affairs are preparing for a round of negotiations with the two other government parties, the Civic Democrats and TOP 09, to take place on Tuesday. The party’s deputy leader, Dagmar Navrátilová, told the Czech News Agency ČTK on Sunday that the party was hoping a compromise within the coalition would be reached. Should the three coalition partners fail to reach an agreement, early elections will be held. Earlies this week, Public Affairs had threatened it would quit the coalition unless certain demands were met.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said, in an interview that was published in the weekend edition of the daily Mladá fronta dnes, that his party, the Civic Democrats, had been preparing for possible snap elections for weeks. Mr Nečas explained that the senior government coalition party started putting together an election campaign two weeks ago, for fear that spats over austerity measures would force the government to resign. In addition, he said, the trial of Public Affairs deputy Vít Bárta, the de-facto leader of the junior coalition partner, was a factor in the party’s decision to prepare for possible early elections. The prime minister said that the Civic Democrats were concerned that in the case of an acquittal, Mr Bárta would put the government under pressure in an effort to return to the cabinet. The verdict in the highly publicized corruption trial will be delivered next Friday.
Deputy leader of the government coalition’s TOP 09 party, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, has said that his party would consider forming a coalition with the Social Democrats in the case of early elections. He added that he would not welcome working together with the current opposition party, but would prefer it if junior coalition partner Public Affairs quit the coalition. The party was pushing through its agenda in a way that damaged the government, he said. However, the TOP 09 leader added that the coalition needed the junior partner’s deputies’ votes to push through reforms that will work to improve the country’s prosperity and prevent it from sliding into a financial crisis.
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