The centre-right Civic Democratic Party continued its 20th convention on
Sunday. Party chairman Mirek Topolánek surprised in-party opponents by
calling for a January convention to approve the party’s platform for the
next decade and launch its pre-election campaign. Critics of Mr Topolánek
within the party had hoped to call for a special convention themselves to
re-elect the party leadership in February. That group was soundly defeated
in a bid to hold a confidence vote on Saturday. Mr Topolánek stated at the
convention that he would resign should the party lose parliamentary
elections scheduled for late May, 2010. A majority of regional party
leaders also voiced interest in moving parliamentary elections up to
February from the scheduled deadline at the end of May. Most however felt
that it would not be possible to achieve an agreement on such a change with
the rival Social Democratic Party.
The Civic Democratic Party was the winner of the last parliamentary election. Their coalition government was brought down by a vote of no-confidence at the end of March, since which time the country has be run by a technocratic caretaker government.
Swine flu has claimed the life of a middle-aged man in the eastern town of Valašské Meziříčí. Hospital officials on Sunday said that the virus alone was likely responsible for the man’s death, as he suffered from no other apparent illness. The 45-year-old was the fourth person to die from the virus in the Czech Republic; the death of a fifth infected individual was put down to cancer. All of the deaths in the Czech Republic in which swine flu was a contributing factor have occurred over the last month.
The Czech Republic is expecting the delivery of 90,000 additional doses of swine flu vaccine. That amount will be roughly equal to the number of dosages currently available for the first wave of vaccinations. Health minister Dana Jurásková made the announcement Saturday at a meeting of the Czech Medical Chamber in Brno. The minister also said that under set circumstances the state would be assuming legal responsibility for possible side effects of vaccination. 95,000 vaccines are currently being distributed around the Czech Republic, with vaccinations set to begin on Monday. The second delivery is to be made after December 4. The Czech Republic’s chief hygiene officer, Michael Vít, has said he expects a statistical epidemic to be underway at the beginning of December.
The introduction of a long-anticipated scrap car incentive appears unlikely, as the Social Democratic Party has withdrawn support for it. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, shadow finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka said there was no pressing rationale for implementing the scheme if positive developments on the automobile market continue. The Automobile Industry Association was not happy with the statement, however. The association’s director Antonín Šípek said the party’s stance showed a misunderstanding of the purpose of the incentive, which he said was originally introduced elsewhere to get environmentally unfriendly and unsafe automobiles off the roads, rather than to stimulate the economy.
The Czech Medical Chamber is demanding a fundamental amendment be made to the act on public health insurance. The chamber wants permanent contracts with health insurance companies so that private-practice doctors can sell their practices without having to hold public tenders for new contracts. The same would apply to health care facilities owned by private businesses. The head of the Medical Chamber, Milan Kubek, said that the demand would be a task for the government that emerges from parliamentary elections.
The tradition of the pig slaughter in the Czech Republic has declined precipitously in the last ten years, as reported by the Czech Press Agency. While 75,000 tonnes of pork went towards pig slaughters in the year 2000, only a third of that, 25,000 tonnes was slaughtered in 2008. According to the Association of Czech Meat Processors, the decline is due to the more favourable prices of pre-processed pork in supermarkets today and the greater number of restaurants that offer the kinds of food items traditionally prepared in slaughters. Concerns that the EU would ban home pig slaughtering were allayed in September, when the European Council passed a measure permitting the practice and instating stronger regulations against animal cruelty.
The government is working with parties to submit anticorruption measures ahead of parliamentary elections. The measures are intended to involve primarily public tenders, the criminal liability of businesses and the operation of the police force. The minister of justice, Daniela Kovářová, said that the government itself would be submitting proposals regarding police wiretapping and the activities of stock corporations. The Czech Republic’s international corruption ranking recently rose from 45 to 52.
A 27-metre spruce was felled Sunday and taken to Prague to become the Christmas tree in Old Town Square. The tree was chosen from the Krkonoš Mountains as it has been for the last six years. This year however was the first that the tree was taken from a location accessible to onlookers, and several dozen people attended the cutting. The historic square’s Christmas tree is carefully selected each year; this year’s spruce, which stood on the bank of the Elbe River, was scheduled for felling regardless of Christmas due to concerns that a flood could bring it down on a nearby bridge.
Speed skater Martina Sáblíková has won the gold medal in the 5000m event at the World Cup in Hamar, Norway. The 22-year-old Czech managed to get a two-second lead at the outset and held it to finish nearly three seconds ahead of her closest opponent, German Stephanie Beckert. Sáblíková, who has won the last three world championships, came in four and a half seconds behind her own world record.
Members of the Civic Democratic Party have voted against holding a vote of confidence on chairman Mirek Topolánek at the party’s 20th conference. In-party opponents of the chairman and former prime minister were soundly defeated in the vote by a margin of almost three to one. A vote to cast secret ballots was also rejected. Mr Topolánek faced heavy criticism from speakers at the convention, among other things for resigning his parliamentary mandate in September to protest a failed vote to dissolve Parliament for early elections. In an hour-long opening speech, the party chairman emphasised his view that a change of leadership would mean sure victory for the party’s main rivals, the Social Democrats, in elections scheduled for mid-2010. He also promised that he would step down as party chairman should the Civic Democrats lose that election.