Cyril Svoboda has been elected leader of the Christian Democratic Party. Mr. Svoboda, former party leader and long-time minister in successive cabinets, has said he wants to restore unity and see the party do well in October’s early general elections. The party’s current leader Jiří Čunek dropped out in the first round of voting. The Czech Republic’s second oldest political party has been racked by infighting in recent months which has seen its ratings plunge. Former finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek a prominent member of the party, has announced he is leaving the Christian Democrats to form a new party.
Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Czech Republic from September 26 to 28, the Vatican said on Saturday following a meeting between the Pope and Czech President Václav Klaus. The Vatican’s press office said that following an invitation from the Czech president and the Czech Catholic bishops the Pope would visit Prague, Brno and Stará Boleslav, where he would take part in the St Wenceslas pilgrimage on September 28, a national holiday in the Czech Republic. It will be Pope Benedict's first visit to the Czech Republic since taking office.
The Special Operations Unit of the Czech military police that made headlines in mid-April by refusing to fight in the field in Afghanistan will be dissolved by June 30, according to military police chief Vladimir Lozek. An investigation into the incident reveled deep rifts within the unit over its role and a weak commander who was unable to resolve the conflicts. As a result of the scandal, military police commander Oldrich Kubát resigned in February and was replaced by Vladimir Lozek. The new military police chief has ordered an overhaul of the military police, to be completed by October of this year.
British Conservative Party leader David Cameron paid a brief visit to Prague on Saturday in a show of support for the centre-right Civic Democrats ahead of the European elections. He and Civic Democratic Party leader Mirek Topolánek said they shared a common vision of the European Union as a dynamic, flexible alliance that is capable of meeting the challenges of the present-day. The two party leaders then left for Poland to meet the leader of the Law and Justice Party in what is seen as an effort to drum up support for a newly emerging European Conservatives faction in the EP.
Police in Litvinov on Saturday detained a dozen young people who appeared at an election rally of the far-right Workers’ Party to protest against racism. According to a ctk news agency reporter the police asked them to leave and when they failed to do so they were searched, handcuffed and marched off to the nearest police station for questioning. A police spokeswoman said they had been detained for breaching the peace and trying to disrupt an election rally.
Relations between the majority population and the country’s Romany minority are perceived to be deteriorating. According to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency 85 percent of respondents –both Roma and non-Roma - said that relations were at their lowest ebb in the past decade and that coexistence was problematic. A growing number of Czech Romanies are once again seeking asylum in other states, predominantly Canada, saying that they fear for their safety amidst growing racist violence in the Czech Republic. An arson attack against a Romany family in which a two-year-old girl nearly burnt to death, has further heightened tensions.
A serious road accident involving a passenger car and a minibus near the town of Damice in western Bohemia, is reported to have killed a woman and injured 21 people, among them five children. Eyewitnesses say the driver of the passenger car failed to give the minibus right of way and in an effort to avoid a collision its driver swerved sharply, turning over into a ditch. Some of the injured are reported to be in serious condition. Police are investigating the cause of the accident.
The Tatra car plant in Kořivnice has announced it is laying off 450 workers as a result of the economic crisis. A spokesman for the plant said the employees would be let go at the end of August but would get bigger severance pay if they agreed to leave at once. The plant is due to finish work on an order of 550 trucks for the Czech army before breaking off for an early summer break. The Škoda car plant in Mlada Boleslav which currently has plenty of commissions thanks to the scrap incentives introduced in neighbouring states has said it might take on some of the laid-off Tatra workers on a temporary basis.
The Posazaví car rally ended in tragedy on Saturday as one of the racing cars unexpectedly swerved off the track and rammed into a tree, killing the driver. The cause of the accident is being investigated. The rally, in its 12th year, is part of the five-race series of the Czech Open Cup. It was cancelled immediately after the tragedy. Eleven people have been killed in car rallies in the Czech Republic in the past ten years.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer presented the programme priorities of his
government to members of the lower house of Parliament on Friday.
Mr Fischer did not publicly disclose the document but the news website
aktualne.cz reported that the cabinet’s priorities included implementing
a stimulus package to boost the economy, the preparation of privatisation
of some key state-owned companies such as the carrier ČSA, and
into education and transport infrastructure, among others. The interim
government will not proceed with a planned reform of the retirement
system or with the health care reform launched by the previous cabinet.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer’s government is set to ask for confidence in the lower house of the Czech Parliament on June 7. Mr Fischer took office earlier this month after the centre-right cabinet of Mr Topolánek fell in a no-confidence vote.