Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek announced on Thursday the party
would change the format of its campaign following a spate of recent
attacks. He said leaders would still meet with the public but at workplaces
and in schools and not at meetings on town and city squares.
At an election rally on Wednesday evening deputy leader Bohuslav Sobotka was punched in the face and brought to the ground by a drunken assailant. He had to be taken to hospital where he remained overnight.
The 48-year-old attacker spent the night in a prison cell. Authorities say he will be brought before a judge under a fast track procedure with a verdict likely to be given on Saturday.
Earlier on Thursday, Social Democrats in Brno said they could resume public political meetings in the city by Friday. They say they will consult with Mr. Sobotka about an early resumption.
Members of the country’s political parties reacted quickly to condemn
the attack on the top Social Democrat politician. Petr Nečas, the leader
of the Social Democrats’ main rivals, the centre-right Civic Democrats,
said it was unacceptable. But he also criticised the Social Democrats for
bringing violence into the campaign.
President Václav Klaus earlier condemned two previous incidents when a glass of pickled sausages was thrown at speakers during a Social Democrat rally and when students displayed a banner suggesting the Social Democrat leader could be assassinated. Some party leaders have blamed the negative tone of the whole campaign ahead of lower house elections at the end of May. Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda called for the election campaign to be limited to four weeks.
Separately, Social Democrat leaders have blamed a handful of national newspapers and magazines for stirring up animosity against the party. And they listed three national newspapers and two magazines, collectively branded as right-wing media, which the party will boycott for the rest of the election campaign. The papers are Mladá fronta dnes, Lidové noviny and Hospodářské noviny; the magazines, the weeklies Respekt and Reflex. No answers will be given to questions from these publications, the leadership said. Editors dismissed the right-wing label and said they will continue to cover the party nonetheless.
A survey by the internet polling agency SANEP released on Thursday has put the left-of-centre Social Democrats as the winners of elections to the lower house at the end of May. The poll taken in April gives the Social Democrats 29.9 percent of support, ahead of its main rivals the Civic Democrats on 22.3 percent. The Communists come in third with 12.9 percent, followed by Top 09 on 10.1 percent and the Public Affairs party on 9.8 percent. Former prime minister Miloš Zeman’s party would also cross the 5.0 percent barrier to gain a seat in parliament with 5.5 percent support, the poll suggests. Those percentages would leave the Social Democrats and Communists just short of an absolute majority in the lower chamber.
The Czech Republic’s counter intelligence service, the Security Information Service, says in a report that the activities of far right extremists has declined in the first three months of the year. Police interventions last year and the court decision to ban the extremist Workers’ Party this year appear to have undermined it. Far right movements currently appear fragmented, it added. The report said police action at the end of last year which targeted some radical far-right leaders has effectively put them out of circulation.
The Czech National Bank has cut its main interest rate to a record low. The bank announced the cut of a quarter of a percentage point to 0.75 percent. Most analysts had expected that the bank would hold the rate unchanged. The latest cut takes Czech interest rates to a quarter of a percentage point below the main rate in the eurozone. The move is likely to weaken the Czech crown which has been hit in recent days by turbulence surrounding worries about the far reaching plans to cut Greek public debt.
German auto giant Volkswagen is reportedly mulling whether to manufacture
cars under the brand name of its Spanish company SEAT in the Czech
Republic. The daily Dnes reported on Thursday that the firm has plans to
set aside part of the production capacity of its Czech unit Škoda Auto for
such production with the possibility that SEAT brand cars could start to be
manufactured within two years. No final decision has been taken.
The model for such production would probably be a large but cheaply equipped family car about the size of the current Octavia. The paper points out that production of ‘national’ models have already been transferred by other European car makers. But it adds that a move to shift SEAT production out of Spain will likely create uproar there because of the unemployment rate of around 20 percent.
The country’s competition watchdog has imposed a record fine on the north Bohemian city of Liberec for flaws in a public tenders. The Office for the Protection of Economic Competition fined the city 3.0 million crowns, the highest fine ever for a tender infraction by a public authority, after severe flaws were found in an around billion crown tender for the collection and removal of rubbish. It said two companies were unjustifiably eliminated from the tender although one offered to do the job for a third of the price of the eventual winner. The fine can be appealed.
Doctors at Karlovy Vary‘s main hospital have announced a ban on overtime work. The ban is a protest against what they claim to be the systematic imposition of excessive overtime by hospital bosses. Doctors say this is twice or three time the level allowed under the law. Doctors say the ban could close some hospital departments, including the children’s, neurology and gynaecology departments. Doctors’ unions are also seeking a 20 percent pay rise saying they have had virtually no increase for the last three to four years.
After a long wait, tennis player Ivan Lendl has announced he will play before a Czech crowd. The 50-year-old, who now has US citizenship, will take on his historic rival, Bjorn Borg, in his home city of Ostrava on November 5 in an exhibition match. The two players dominated world tennis in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Lendl made a comeback to tennis after a break of 16 years when he played an exhibition match against Swede Mats Wilander in April.