President Václav Klaus has endorsed former prime minister Miloš Zeman, who is planning to run for president in next year’s elections, the daily Mladá fronta dnes reported on Monday. Mr Zeman was an important figure in Czech politics and his candidature a logical step in his career, the Czech president said. He added that candidates for the post of president should be people who had done something for the country and that Mr Zeman was among them. Commenting on the president’s endorsement, Mr Zeman said that he appreciated his support. A group of ten senators have nominated Mr Zeman as their pick for the presidential race. However, they have yet to collect 50,000 signatures to make his candidature official.
Members of the opposition Social Democratic Party have complained that police overly target members of the opposition. Referring to the arrest of MP David Rath two weeks ago, deputy party chairman Jeroným Tejc told a debate programme on Czech Television at the weekend that the police were sending a signal that those who stole or were corrupt would go to prison if they were not in the government coalition. While allowing that Dr Rath is probably guilty, Mr Tejc and other Social Democrats have complained that corruption cases tied to the government parties – Promopro or Opencard – have cost hundreds of millions in public funds and have not been dealt with as vigorously.
In continuing fallout from the arrest of former governor of Central Bohemia David Rath, the region has decided to scrap problematic tenders worth two billion crowns. The projects include the reconstruction of the Bustehrad chateau, the financing of which was apparently at the centre of Dr Rath’s bribery charges. Other projects involve subsidies for hospitals in Kladno and Pribram, and for Rath’s town of Hostivice. Nearly 20 tenders for road repairs were also cancelled. Police arrested David Rath two weeks ago immediately after he received what they believe was a seven-million-crown bribe.
Voter preference for the opposition Social Democratic Party has waned in the wake of the David Rath scandal, according to a poll conducted by the STEM agency. The survey suggests that the party, in which Dr Rath was the shadow health minister, lost nearly three points to 23% over the last month. Meanwhile, right-wing party preference has increased slightly. Four parties would cross the 5-percent parliamentary threshold, STEM SAYS: the Social Democrats, followed by the senior government Civic Democrats, the Communists and TOP 09. Election turnout would be 53%; one-fifth of respondents said they would definitely not go to elections and 27% were undecided.
Anti-corruption police have arrested seven people in connection with a 500 million crown tax fraud case. The police say the group faked the purchase of cards for a prepaid internet webhosting service, Ikropolis.com, then fictitiously sold the cards to Slovakia and filed for over-taxation. In all, 17 people are under suspicion in the case, which the police say is an entirely new method of tax fraud. They face up to ten years imprisonment if convicted.
Police have charged former industry minister Martin Kocourek with damaging a creditor. While the police did not state what case the charges apply to, Mr Kocourek was found late last year to have transferred 16 million crowns under unusual circumstances. Anti-corruption police are still investigating that case. Mr Kocourek’s ex-wife filed charges against him when he said that he had moved the money to an account of his mother’s in order to keep them out of his divorce settlement.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has addressed a statement from Sudeten Germans, who said at the weekend that they expect "a considerable breakthrough" in relations with the Czech government. In an interview for the German news agency DPA, Mr Schwarzenberg said he wasn’t sure what they expected, but that they may want an official apology for the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia at the close of WWII. The late president Václav Havel expressed regret for the acts in 1990. Mr Schwarzenberg said he was not fond of empty gestures and that real cooperation between Sudeten Germans and Czechs was the most important thing. Decrees issued at the end of WWII allowed about 2.5 million ethnic Germans to be transferred from the country and their property confiscated.
Roma representatives will not press charges against a boy who falsely stated he had been seriously beaten by members of the community. The chairman of the national association of Roma told the Czech Press Agency on Monday that they wanted to make a conciliatory gesture and make sure that the entire situation is put to rest in a calm and dignified manner. Mass demonstrations broke out in Břeclav last month when the fifteen-year-old was hospitalised and lost a kidney. Last week he confessed that he had actually fallen off a railing.
Czechs have a very negative perception of various kinds of EU directives, according to pollsters Factum Invenio. The survey, conducted for the insurance company Česká pojišťovna, said that Ninety-one percent of respondents, for example, took notice of the regulation setting the size of cages for laying hens at farms - possibly also because egg prices grew sharply as a result of the directive. The mandatory use of energy saving bulbs and restriction of smoking at public places was also registered by most Czechs, 82%, in each case.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas says union plans to block government ministries on Tuesday are violent and lack democratic legitimacy. Speaking after a meeting of the Civic Democrat executive council, Mr Nečas said that demonstrating and expressing one’s opinion was one thing, but trying to keep people from going to work or to a government office was unacceptable and could lead to ‘jeopardising freedoms’. He added that the relevant authorities should react accordingly. Various unions plan to join with activists and students to protest reforms by blocking access to the ministries of culture, health and finance over the coming weeks.
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