Following her dismissal from the post of defense minister, LIDEM party chairwoman Karolina Peake has called on her party’s ministers to resign from the government by 10 January, which would mean the fall of the governing coalition. Beside Ms Peake, who still holds the post of deputy prime minister, LIDEM has two other members in the government – Minister for Regional Development Kamil Jankovský and minister without portfolio Petr Mlsna. The party holds eight seats in the Lower House. Shortly before the LIDEM party's announcement, Mr Nečas said that he is still interested in cooperating with LIDEM within the coalition and said that Ms Peak will keep her position as deputy prime minister.
Karolina Peake was sacked on Thursday afternoon eight days after taking up the post of Defense Minister. Prime Minister Petr Nečas has announced that he decided to fire the LIDEM chairwoman because of her unwillingness to cooperate with the government. The premier said Ms Peake did not comply with his request to withdraw her dismissal of her first deputy Vlastimil Picek, which she issued the next day after her confirmation.
Former police president Petr Lessy has expressed disagreement with the verdict of the Prague 7 court, which pronounced him guilty of slandering a subordinate and abuse of office. Mr Lessy claims he is innocent of the charges leveled against him and has protested against the fact that the court decision came after a closed hearing, not a public one. He told the press on Thursday that he would most likely appeal the court’s decision. Mr Lessy was accused of giving his press secretary documents that were damaging to the then deputy police chief in Zlín, Jaroslav Vaňek. The documents, that were later passed on to a journalist, allegedly presented proof of Mr Vaňek’s links with the Tofl gang.
The Interior Ministry is said to have published information making it possible for presidential candidates to cheat the ministry’s verification procedure of their list of supporters. The randomized system for controlling the signature sheets was created by Hewlett Packard, which won in a public tender. Czech Radio said on Thursday that by placing the full text of the contract between the ministry and Hewlett Packard on the internet, including the formula used to randomly select signature sheets to be checked, the Interior Ministry allowed candidates to calculate exactly which sheets would be picked, and prepare those sheets more carefully. The ministry defended itself saying that it is obliged by law to place the full text of the contract for any public tender online, and that signature sheets were given internal numbers at the ministry, which prevented any possible fraud in this respect. Three candidates who submitted petitions with more than the necessary 50 thousand signatures were originally disqualified for having too many unverifiable signatures, though Jana Bobšíková was later registered as an official candidate.
Czech Railways are suing their only shareholder – the Transport Ministry – in an effort to prevent it from making public the amounts with which it subsidizes the trips made by Czech Railways trains. Owners of private companies that have begun competing with the national train operator, like Radim Jančura of RegionJet, say that the Transport Ministry has to release information about the exact amount of money it costs the state to run every kilometer of vital train lines. So far, the ministry has released only an average figure, but Czech Railways want to completely block the release of this information. One of their cases has already been turned down by the Prague Municipal Court.
Former Education Minister Josef Dobeš has founded the New Movement for Sport. The Public Affairs Party member has said that the New Movement will be engaged politically and has aspirations to run in parliamentary elections in 2014. The group’s main goals are to push for a new law on the financing of sports, and in general strengthen the sporting community in the country. At a press conference on Thursday, Mr Dobeš said that a number of famous Czech sporting personalities support the movement, and that they also have popular support in a number of regions.
The presidential Václav Havel Library has publicly announced its support for the presidential candidacy of Karel Schwarzenberg. The mission of the Prague-based library, that was founded in 2004, is to disseminate information about former Czech and Czechoslovak President Václav Havel and his works, as well as collecting an archive of materials by and about him. Karel Schwarzenberg, who is currently the finance minister, at one point served as the chancellor in President Havel’s cabinet.
Prague city hall has announced that it will try to re-negotiate the contract it has with the owners of Škodův palace, where many of the central administrative offices are located. The city hall has previously announced that the rent and terms of the contract are disadvantageous. Rent prices in the surrounding buildings are allegedly almost half of the 196 million crowns that the city paid last year for renting the Škodův palace in Jungmannová street. If the palace’s owners will not offer a better price, city hall officials will consider filing a legal complaint.
The Olympic javelin champion Barbora Špotáková has been named Czech Sportsperson of the Year. Špotáková, who is 31, received the award, which is voted on by members of the Club of Sports Journalists, at a ceremony in Prague on Wednesday evening. She also won the prize four years ago, when she took her first Olympic gold. The athlete recently announced she was taking a year out in 2013 to have her first child.
The Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday approved changes to the Czech Republic’s VAT rates that will come into effect next year. The Senate had previously rejected the plan to raise the basic VAT rate to 15 percent and the higher rate to 21 percent. The legislation now goes before the president, Václav Klaus, who has criticised the change. If Mr. Klaus does veto it, a previously approved single VAT rate of 17.5 percent would come into effect in January, raising the prices of foodstuffs, medicines, health supplies and other items. At present the country has VAT rates of 14 and 20 percent.
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