Czech political parties are making a last bid to win over wavering voters
before polling starts to the lower house on Friday. Leaders of the two
biggest political parties will take part in a final television clash.
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek and Civic Democrat leader Petr
Nečas face each other for a 90-minute duel on Czech public television on
Thursday evening. The debate will be split into three sections: the
economy, foreign policy and corruption. A debate on Czech Radio on
Wednesday featured personal attacks by the two leaders on each other.
The Civic Democrats held their closing campaign rally in Prague on Thursday afternoon. Their leader ruled out any future deal with the Social Democrats. The Social Democrats have a final evening rally in Brno. Most pre-election polls have put the Social Democrats in the lead but falling short of a majority in the 200-seat lower house.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer gave an upbeat evaluation of his year heading the government before the final session of the lower house on Thursday. The caretaker prime minister said it had overall been successful: rounding off the Czech EU presidency, ratifying the EU’s Lisbon treaty, passing a budget, and preparing the ground for better use of EU funds. He added that he was not handing on the government in a worse state than he had found it. Prime Minister Fischer called on his successor to pass a new civil service law, saying that it was a prerequisite for further unavoidable reforms
Members of the lower house have voted in favour of special government bonds totalling up to 3.0 billion crowns to help repair the damage from recent floods in Moravia. The vote on the flood bonds was subject to a special fast track procedure with the upper house, the Senate, due to discuss the issue next week. The bonds should be bought by the European Investment Bank which gives the Czech government better terms than offering them on the open market. The total bill for flood damages is estimated at up to 5.0 billion crowns by the Association of Czech Regions.
Czech President Václav Klaus has intervened in a citizenship row between
Slovakia and Hungary. In a meeting with the Slovak ambassador on Wednesday,
President Klaus pledged support for Slovakia in the dispute and denounced
Hungarian government actions as irresponsible. Fresh conflict between
Slovakia and Hungary has stemmed from a Hungarian parliament decision to
grant dual citizenship to Hungarians living in neighboring countries. In
reaction, the Slovak parliament passed a law stating that all Slovak
citizens applying for Hungarian dual citizenship will lose their Slovak
About a half million Hungarians live in Slovakia. Relations between the two countries are historically tense due to unresolved questions surrounding the rights of the Hungarian minority in southern Slovakia. Recent elections in Hungary producing a right-wing coalition have aggravated the situation even further.
The spa town of Františkovy Lazně has launched criminal proceedings against the head of the board and general director of betting giant Sazka. The town mayor said Aleš Hušák had made threats against him and town officials after a council decision to ban traditional gaming machines and automatic video terminals. The latter are operated by Sazka. The mayor said threats included heavy financial penalties and the loss of personal property. The council ban came before a decision by the upper house, the Senate, last week to widen local council powers to ban gaming machines, including the video terminals.
Managers of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes called police out to their main Prague office to search for bugging devices, the weekly Tyden reported on its web pages on Thursday. Police failed to find anything suspicious. It is the second time that the police search has been demanded, the first request coming in April after the surprise appointment of historian Jiří Pernes as new director. He was dismissed after just six weeks in the post last week. The troubled institute holds the archives of the Communist secret police who were well practiced in the arts of espionage. A spokesman for the institute said it had no comment to make.
Several hundred farmers demonstrated in front of the lower house of parliament on Thursday for greater use of biofuels in petrol and diesel. A law boosting biofuels’ share in both was vetoed two weeks ago by President Václav Klaus. In the aftermath, farmers complained they would suffer heavy losses and would not be able to grow rape and other biofuel crops on around 70,000 hectares earmarked for them. Deputies in the lower house voted to overturn the presidential veto on Thursday. That means the proportion of biofuel in petrol will rise in June from 3.5 percent to 4.1 percent and in diesel from 4.5 percent to 6.0 percent.
Former Czech president Václav Havel was applauded before and at the end of the US premiere of his latest play “Leaving” at Philadelphia’s Wilma Theatre on Thursday night. The former dissident and first non-Communist president after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 attended the premiere with wife, Dagmar. In the audience were former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and singer Suzanne Vega. During the afternoon Havel took part in a discussion about the play which was attended by the main actors including male lead, Oscar-nominated David Strathairn. Theatre director Jiří Žižka, who is also directing the play, said he first became interested in theatre at the age of 15 after seeing a performance of a play by Václav Havel in Prague. Tickets for the performance have been sold out for several weeks, the theatre is considered one of the city’s best. Mr. Havel will be returning to the Czech Republic after the premiere and a three-week stay in the US.
Musicians from the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra have protested against the decision by the minister of culture to appoint a new director without a proper competition for filling the post. Members of the orchestra played on the steps of the Rudolfinum with the audience including bemused tourists. They afterwards explained their belief that Minister of Culture Václav Riedlbauch abused his powers in appointing former Czech Radio director, Václav Kasík, as orchestra director. The previous director, Vladimír Darjanin, was dismissed for alleged flaws in the orchestra’s accounting.
The trial of four men accused of launching a racially motivated fire bomb attack on a Roma family heard on Thursday how the youngest victim of the attack suffered horrific injuries. Police described how burning petrol could reach temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees Celsius. A doctor afterwards testified that the not yet two-year-old Natálka suffered second and third degree burns on almost 77 percent of her body and almost died several times. She now has to live with life long scars and injuries, the expert added. The attack took place in the eastern town of Vítkov in Apríl 2009.