The former Czech president Václav Havel on Tuesday threw his weight behind presidential candidate Jan Švejnar. Mr. Švejnar, a Czech-born professor of economics at Michigan University has emerged as the sole rival of incumbent President Václav Klaus, who is seeking re-election. In a radio interview on New Year’s Day, Mr Havel said the country needed fresh blood and fresh motivation. Reacting to objections that Mr Švejnar has U.S. as well as Czech citizenship and hadn’t lived in the Czech Republic for years, Mr Havel said his long-term stay abroad was an advantage and argued that he shouldn’t have to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to be considered eligible for the post.
The chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party Jiří Paroubek has openly criticized President Klaus’ New Year’s address to the nation as one of his weakest speeches ever. “It would seem that ahead of the presidential elections Vaclav Klaus is suddenly afraid to defend his strong views on many issues,” Mr Paroubek said. According to Communist Party chairman Vojtěch Filip the speech lacked balance. The heads of the Christian Democratic Party and the Green Party said they missed a clear vision of the country’s future development in the president’s New Year’s Day address.
Green Party Senator Jaromír Štětina has called on President Václav Klaus to apologise to the people who are taking efforts to “rid the Czech Republic of the Bolshevik legacy.” Mr. Štětina said the Czech head of state has recently made disgracing comments on these people, referring to President Klaus’ New Year’s address and to a comment he made before Christmas, when he said that the appeals for the abolition of the Communist Party were ridiculous. The spokesman for the Presidential Office Petr Hájek said the president hasn’t read the letter and won’t make any comments on it.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek presented the government’s plans for this year to President Václav Klaus during their traditional New Year’s lunch at the presidential chateau in Lany, just outside Prague. Topolanek said the cabinet would like to continue discussing the pension reform, complete the health care reform and launch changes in the justice system. They also debated the tactics of the Civic Democratic Party during the presidential election in February in which Mr. Klaus would seek re-election as the party’s candidate. During the meeting in Lany Mr. Topolanek also highlighted President Klaus’ New Year’s address to the nation. He said he shared the president’s view that the country is now experiencing the best time in its history.
The head of the Green Party and Deputy Prime Minister Martin Bursík has
warned the ruling Civic Democrats against accepting Jiří Čunek’s
comeback to the government. Mr. Bursík has reacted to the statement of
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek who said that if the Christian Democrats
insisted on their leader’s return to the government, he would yield to
the pressure. The Green Party leader said he didn’t recommend the Civic
Democrats to swap Jiri Cunek’s comeback for the Christian Democrats’
votes for Vaclav Klaus in the upcoming presidential election.
The Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek stepped down as deputy prime minister and minister for local development in November when an investigation into whether he had accepted bribes was reopened. The investigation has been dropped a few weeks later and Mr. Cunek now wants to be reinstated as a member of cabinet.
Only a half of all foreigners working in the Czech Republic want to settle in the country permanently, according to a study conducted by the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. The study indicates that 48 percent of foreigners are convinced they will live in the Czech Republic in the course of the next five years. Eleven percent of them think they will most probably leave the country in due time and six percent are sure they will leave. The study has revealed that ten percent of university-educated foreign workers hold the poorest paid jobs in the Czech Republic. Complicated administration is the main problem why educated foreign workers find it hard to get jobs better suited to their skills and qualifications.
As of January 1, Czech patients are having to pay 30 crowns ( less than a dollar) for each visit to the doctor and for each prescription, and 60 crowns for each day spent in hospital. The move is a part of a far-reaching reform of the health sector introduced this year. The aim of the reform is to save money, bring new funds into the health sector and to stop people abusing the system. After the law was passed in Parliament, its opponents lodged a complaint with the country’s Constitutional Court on the grounds that the fees would breech the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
The number of fatal injuries on Czech roads increased last year by 154 to 1,110 deaths. The number of accidents increased significantly towards the end of the year, when politicians announced possible changes to the traffic penalty-point system that was introduced in July 2006. Another reason behind the growing number of road accidents may be the lack of traffic police on the roads. The head of the country’s traffic-police has promised that another 500 officers will be employed this year.
Czechs wish mostly for good health and a pay rise in 2008, according to a recent poll conducted by the Median agency. Altogether 19 percent of respondents said they wished for better health for their families in the new year and 14 percent wanted a pay rise above all else. Another 12 percent say they have everything they need.
Czech cross country skier Lukáš Bauer has won the fifth race of the Tour de Ski in Nové Město nad Metují, having already finished first in the opening race of the event. The tour includes eight races, and the overall time winner gets 400 World Cup points. Bauer won the 15 km classic on Wednesday in a time of 38 minutes 26.9 seconds, beating Norway's Jens Arnes Svartedal by a second. Nikolai Pankratov from Russia finished third.