Czech President Václav Klaus appointed Jan Fischer as the country’s new prime minister during a brief ceremony at Prague Castle on Thursday afternoon. Mr Fischer, the head of the country’s statistical office, should become the non-partisan leader of a caretaker government from May 9 until early elections in October. His appointment has been paved by a deal between the country’s two biggest political parties, the centre-right Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats. They have enough votes in the lower house of Parliament to guarantee Fischer’s government of experts sufficient support in a confidence vote and pilot the country to early elections.
In an earlier statement, outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that while no major political decisions await the caretaker government it nonetheless faces some tough tasks. These include completing the Czech EU presidency with the heads of government meeting in June and a series of bilateral summits. At home, he said it would have to push through measures to counter the economic crisis and prepare the next budget. Mr Topolánek said his government had worked to find a solution to the political crisis it was not guilty of creating and which had had a severe impact on the country’s reputation abroad.
The Czech EU presidency has said that it is monitoring with deep concern developments in Moldova. The former Soviet republic has experienced unrest in the wake of parliamentary elections on April 5. In a statement, the presidency called for all sides to refrain from further action that would escalate the situation and stressed that freedom of the media and expression should be respected. Protests followed the announcement of election results confirming the ruling Communist party as the winner. A large crowd invaded the parliament building on Tuesday. The protests have ratcheted up tension with neighbouring Romania. Romanian journalists complain they have been banned from reporting in the country.
Two children remained in critical condition in hospital on Thursday following a stampede caused by a private radio stunt in the south Bohemian town of České Budějovice. As well as the two children in intensive care, five other children and two adults are also undergoing hospital treatment. Twenty-four people were injured when the radio station offered to drop 100,000 crowns among the crowd in the town’s main square. Police are investigating whether criminal charges should be pressed for recklessly endangering safety with a jail sentence of up to two years possible.
A life sentence on the hospital nurse turned mass murderer Petr Zelenka was confirmed by the Czech Supreme Court on Thursday. The court confirmed the earlier sentence on the former hospital worker who was found guilty of seven murders and 10 attempted murders of patients in his care at the central Czech hospital of Havlíčkův Brod. Mr Zelenka was found guilty of administering the blood thinning agent heparin which caused many of his victimsto die of severe haemorrhages. The court appeal was Mr Zelenka’s last chance to cut his sentence.
Annual inflation speeded up to 2.3 percent in March from February’s 2.0 percent, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Thursday. Analysts say the latest figure is higher than Czech National Bank expectations but they say the outlook is for the pace of price rises to slacken over the next months. The higher cost of tobacco and alcohol as well as increased charges for fuel and housing were among the biggest factors pushing up prices in March, the statistical office said.
The Czech National Bank is drawing up changes to banking rules which would allow it to intervene in an emergency by boosting a troubled bank’s base capital, the news website Aktuálně.cz reported on Thursday. According to deputy bank governor Miroslav Singer, the changes would allow the bank to take that step within days and bring the country into line with other European countries. He stressed however that no Czech banks are in danger.
Rebel Civic Democrat MP Vlastimil Tlustý’s party membership has been cancelled, his local party association announced on Thursday after a meeting. The chairman of the Rakovník party Zdeněk Nejdl said 15 of the 23 members voted for the step. Tlustý, a former Civic Democrat finance minister, was one of four MPs who voted with the left-wing opposition to bring down the centre-right coalition government of Mirek Topolánek last month. He has since announced he would stand in European Parliament elections for the Libertas.cz eurosceptic party but refused to resign from the Civic Democrats.
Czech state-controlled carrier, Czech Airlines, has said that it is preparing to lay-off up to 200 workers in a bid to cut costs. The move has been notified to the local employment office. The step comes amid moves by the airline’s management to win union agreement for a cut in wages to relieve the downturn in airline earnings caused by the global economic crisis. Management are seeking to shave around 300 billion crowns from the annual wage bill. Unions are angered that the management seem to be seeking permanent wage cuts without a return to their original level when the crisis eases.
In ice jockey, Karlovy Vary are a step away from winning the extra league final. The West Bohemian club won the fourth game in the series against Slavia Prague on Wednesday night by 6-4. The win gives Karlovy Vary a 3 – 1 lead in the series and the chance to take the title on Friday. Success would mean they become the first non-Prague club to take the title in three years.