Czech President Václav Klaus will appoint Jan Fischer the country’s new
prime minister on Thursday. The news came shortly after the centre-right
Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats reaffirmed their
support for a caretaker government led by non-partisan Jan Fischer. Under
the deal, the new interim administration should have 16 non-partisan
cabinet members, take over on May 9th and rule the country until early
elections in October.
Although the two smaller coalition parties have reservations regarding this solution to the crisis, the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene – the Civic and Social Democrats have enough votes to push through both a confidence vote in the Fischer government and early elections.
The deal on a caretaker government has led to a serious rift within the Christian Democrats of the outgoing coalition. The party leadership ruled on Wednesday that it would not support the emerging Fischer cabinet, a decision that caused a public rift. At least five deputies, including Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek on Wednesday pledged to support the caretaker administration, despite a threat from the party leader that if they broke with the party line they would not be allowed to run for the party in the European and parliamentary elections.
Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek is considering leaving the Christian Democratic Party. Mr. Kalousek said in an online discussion on the Czech EU presidency website that he was seriously considering ending his political career and not to running in the autumn parliamentary elections. He said he would make the decision on the basis of the outcome of the party’s national conference in May. Mr.Kalousek, who has engaged in numerous public disputes with party leader Jiří Čunek, said he had given the matter serious consideration
The authorities have confirmed that two Czech students, aged 17, are among the victims of Monday’s earthquake in Italy. According to the Czech Foreign Ministry their bodies were identified in L'Aquila on Tuesday afternoon. Both were from the town of Pardubice and were in L’Aquila within the framework of a student exchange programme.
The outgoing centre-right government and the opposition Social Democrats have agreed on an anti-crisis package aimed at curbing the impact of the global economic downturn on the Czech economy and stimulating growth. The measures include faster tax write-offs for companies, cuts in social insurance payments made by employers, amendments to the insolvency law, higher unemployment benefits and financial incentives to scrap old cars currently proposed at 30,000 crowns for the purchase of a new car of up to 500,000 crowns. Pending approval, the proposed measures sure remain in place until the end of 2010.
Twenty-four people, including a number of children, were injured in a stampede for cash during an outdoor competition launched by a commercial radio station in Českée Budějovice on Tuesday. The head of the local emergency services Marek Slabý told the CTK news agency a 10-year-old girl was taken to hospital in a serious condition and remains in intensive care. Hundreds of people arrived on the town’s main square for the competition in which the radio station promised to drop 100,000 crowns among the crowd. Many risked getting trampled on in the rush for money vouchers. Some escaped with light injuries, twenty-two people had to be hospitalized. The radio station, which underestimated the situation, is being held responsible for the consequences.
Czech unemployment rose to 7.7 percent in March, the highest level in two years, from 7.4 percent the month before, official figures showed Wednesday. The Labour Ministry registered 448,000 job seekers at the end of March, which is approximately 20,000 more than in February. Analysts say the jobless rate could hit a ten percent high before the end of the year.
The head coach of the national football team Petr Rada was dismissed on Wednesday by the Czech FA on the grounds of the team’s poor record in qualification for next year’s World Cup. Rada has led the team for nine months, after replacing coach Karel Bruckner who stepped down after the team’s loss to Turkey in the 2008 Euro championship. However Rada’s own record has been less than successful. After a recent draw with Slovenia and a key loss to Slovakia, the team’s chances of booking a berth to South Africa next year appear slim. Some names being mentioned as possible successors to Petr Rada include Ivan Hašek, who coaches in the United Arab Emirates, and former Sparta Prague coach František Straka.
The FA also expelled six players for a breach of discipline after the World Cup qualifying loss to Slovakia last week. The FA said it had banned forwards Milan Baroš, Martin Fenin and Vaclav Sverkoš plus midfielders Radoslav Kováč and Marek Matějovský and defender Tomáš Ujfaluši from the national team. Ujfaluši had announced he was quitting the national squad just hours before the FA’s decision was announced. He and the other five players came under fire from the FA and the media after they were photographed partying at a Prague restaurant following the 2:1 defeat in a key World Cup qualifier. The tabloid media speculated that the players at the restaurant were accompanied by prostitutes - a charge denied by the team captain on Monday.
A deal on an interim government and early elections remains viable despite a pullout by two smaller parties, the head of the opposition Social Democrats has said. Jiří Paroubek’s comments on Tuesday echoed an earlier statement by outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, whose ruling Civic Democrats, together with the Christian Democrats and the Greens, were defeated in a no-confidence vote last month. At the weekend, the coalition parties and the Social Democrats reached a preliminary agreement on a government of experts to assume office in May and lead the country to early elections. But on Monday the Christian Democrats cast doubt on the deal saying they wanted the outgoing cabinet to remain in power until the end of the Czech EU presidency. The Greens have called the deal “dead” and called for new negotiations.