The Senate on Thursday approved a constitutional amendment opening the way to early elections in October. The bill, which was approved by 56 of the 71 senators present, will enable an early dissolution of Parliament, an act which would not be possible under the Czech Constitution. It was drafted by the two strongest parties in Parliament as a way out of the political crisis following the collapse of the centre-right government in mid-March. A similar law was approved by Parliament in late 1997 after the fall of the Klaus cabinet. The bill’s opponents want the path to early elections to be facilitated through a permanent change in the constitution, but there is not enough support for the idea in the lower house.
Police have accused a 34-year-old man of attacking a public official at Wednesday’s stormy election rally of the Social Democratic Party, where opposition leader Jiří Paroubek was showered with eggs by members of the public. A total of 16 people were taken away for questioning on suspicion of breaching the peace. Several of them were let off with fines, one was charged with attacking a public official. If found guilty the man could face up to three years in prison.
The police have promised to give the Social Democrats better protection at their upcoming election rallies around the country. Following Wednesday’s egg debacle in Prague the head of the Social Democrats election campaign Jaroslav Tvrdík met with deputy police president Ivan Bílek to request increased protection. Bílek promised that local police officers would be present at all the party’s remaining rallies in order to prevent such incidents.
Police in the town of Zdiby near Prague have installed a street camera to monitor the house of a Romany family which appears to have been the target of a racially motivated attack. Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the house last Sunday, but missed the windows and hit an electricity switchboard on the house façade starting a fire. None of the ten people inside were injured but they say they fear for their lives and have asked for protection. Last month an arson attack on another Romany family left three people injured including a two year old who nearly burnt to death in the house. Police have not yet traced the perpetrators.
The Czech Interior Ministry is setting up a special team to fight growing extremism in the country. Jiří Komorous, the former head of the National Anti-Drugs Squad, who is to take up the post of deputy interior minister as of next week, has been entrusted with the task. Komorous said on Thursday he was in the process of assembling the anti-extremism team which would include police officers and members of the military. More information on the team and its activities is expected within a week.
The Ustí nad Labem town hall will evict the residents of several dozen council flats after they failed to tidy up the mess in their surroundings, a local paper reports. The daily said the town hall had repeatedly called for the premises to be cleaned up, fearing the spread of diseases and rodents but no action had been taken over several months. The decision to have the inhabitants evicted was made in cooperation with health inspectors and social workers. The mayor has said it is definitive.
Czech children under the age of six will not have to have fingerprints on their biometric passports, according to a bill passed by the Senate on Thursday. Some countries have introduced the duty of fingerprinting children as of three years of age but EU regulations do not set a specific age limit. The new Czech passports featuring machine-readable information and a chip with biometric data have been issued since September 1st 2006 and will gradually replace all travel documents.
The villa of the late Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš, co-founder of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, was opened to the public on Thursday, on the 125th anniversary of his birth. Beneš was the second Czechoslovak president after Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, serving from 1935 until his resignation in October 1938, shortly after he signed the Munich agreement that dismembered the country. He was also president in 1945-48, and held the post in the exile Czechoslovak government in London in 1940-1945. It was the wish of Beneš' wife, Hana, who died in 1974, that the villa serve the public. Its reconstruction cost 20 million crowns.
The police say they have detained a man who attempted to set fire to the memorial to the victims of communism at the foot of Prague’s Petřín hill. The man was allegedly filmed by a street camera as he poured petrol over one of the statues and threw a lit match at it. The fire went out after a few seconds and did not cause any serious damage to the sculpture. The memorial by sculptor Olbram Zoubek and architects Zdeněk Hoelzl and Jan Kerel consists of seven more or less fragmentary human figures symbolizing political prisoners. They stand on a staircase leading up the slope of Petřín hill in Prague's historical centre, on the left bank of the Vltava river.
Speakers at a pre-election rally of the Social Democrats in Prague, including the party chairman Jíři Paroubek, have once again been bombarded with eggs. The protest method by which the party has been harangued in recent weeks showed no intention of letting up Wednesday afternoon, as the number of eggs hurled moved into the dozens. Scuffles were also reported to have broken out among Social Democrat supporters and protesters, and at least one person was led away by police. President Václav Klaus has responded to the attacks by appealing to politicians and citizens alike to publicly reject and prevent what he labelled a threat to democracy. The spate of egg-throwing attacks, which have targeted primarily Mr Paroubek, has become one of the most discussed issues in the run up to European elections in the Czech Republic.