Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has confirmed his decision to defend his position as Civic Democratic Party leader at the party’s December congress. He revealed the news during a special briefing on Sunday, ending speculation he might give up the post over increasing opposition within his own party. Questions over Mr Topolánek’s political future came to the fore since his party’s poor showing in regional and Senate elections in October. So far, only one other candidate, deputy leader Pavel Bém, has officially announced he will also be running. Mr Bém recently compared his party to a ship drawing water, badly in need of a new “captain”.
In related news, the prime minister said on a Sunday TV interview programme that there would be changes to his cabinet following the defeat of the coalition parties in the recent regional and Senate elections. But he declined to confirm any names yet. There has been speculation those affected could include the embattled Health Minister, Tomáš Julínek, blamed by some within the Civic Democratic Party for failing to reassure the public of the need for healthcare fees at the doctor’s, a key issue in the elections. Other names mentioned in the media in connection with a possible cabinet reshuffle include Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič and Culture Minister Václav Jehlička.
Police statistics have revealed that 11 people lost their lives in tragic accidents on Czech roads during the first November weekend. Saturday saw a number of deaths, including that of an 18-year-old driver who had received his permit only one month earlier. Police say that speeding was a factor in the crash; three fellow passengers were injured, one of them seriously. Sunday saw a head-on collision between two cars near Jindřichův Hradec, killing two people. Two motorcyclists were killed on Sunday afternoon when they collided head-on with a car in the area of Uherské Hradiště. Ahead of the weekend police had warned for drivers on Czech roads to be especially diligent due to poor weather conditions, including fog in places.
The Czech civic association eStat.cz has awarded its annual anti-bureaucracy prize to the Irish people, reportedly for the decision in a referendum to vote against the EU’s Lisbon Treaty this year. The prize is to be awarded to Declan Ganley, the head of an organisation which played a key role in the Irish “No” vote, in Prague on Wednesday. eStat, which has close ties to the Civic Democratic Party, began its award three years ago. The first recipient was President - and Civic Democratic Party founder - Václav Klaus.
A small tunnel below Vyšehrad in Prague used by trams and some 20,000 motorists daily will be closed for four weeks, with traffic re-routed until the end of November. Repairs on local tram track are the reason: a stretch of track leading 300 metres along Podolí and the Vltava river, as well as through the tunnel, was last repaired 26 years ago, the Prague Transport Authority has said. Trams into the centre will be re-routed through Albertov.
Czech star football goalkeeper Petr Čech, who recently recorded his 100th clean sheet for his club Chelsea, has expressed the hope of challenging the club’s record for most clean sheets over the next five years. The record for the club – 205 – is held by the legendary goalkeeper Peter Bonetti, nicknamed “The Cat” in the 1960s and ‘70s for his quick reflexes. Petr Čech needed 180 games with Chelsea to rack up 100 goalless games.
Czech hockey centre forward Tomáš Plekanec had his best game of the NHL season so far with the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, notching up two goals and two assists to help his team sink the New York Islanders. The Habs won the game by a score of 5:4. Prior to the game, Plekanec had racked up just three points in nine matches.
The head of the US Missile Defense Agency, Lt. General Henry Obering III, has urged Czech Parliament to pass legislation on the deployment of a US radar base on Czech territory, making clear a refusal would represent a serious setback for the US. The Czech lower house began debating the issue on Wednesday, but it is clear the government will need to find support from among at least some in the opposition, until now strongly against the plan. The US is hoping to deploy its base to the Brdy military zone, some 70 km south of Prague, to serve as part of a broader defence shield in Europe. Mr Obering allowed that if the bill is rejected, the US has a backup plan. A vote on the radar is expected to take place next year.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has expressed backing for Balkan countries joining the EU even ahead of adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the document intended to reform the functioning of the European Union. He made the comment during a lecture on Friday, saying that the Balkans joining the EU was in the interest of all of Europe. France, Germany, and other countries have suggested that further enlargement of the 27-member union should be halted at least until the treaty is ratified. But Mr Schwarzenberg said such a position was wrong, especially in Croatia’s case. Sources have said that Croatia could theoretically conclude its talks with the EU by the end of 2009, paving the way for full membership in 2012.