Senate and municipal elections will be held on October 15 and 16 of this year, the office of the president announced on Friday. Ballots will have to be compiled by August 10. Voters will elect 27 senators, or a third of the upper house, to six-year terms. Local government elections on the other hand affect all relevant bodies; the last such elections in 2006 saw more than 62,000 officials elected in 6365 municipalities. The president’s announcement of the election dates must still be endorsed by Prime Minister Jan Fischer.
Civic Democrat leader Petr Nečas met with Czech President Václav Klaus on Friday morning to brief him about progress in the talks on forming a centre-right coalition government. Mr Nečas is leading the talks between his Civic Democratic Party, TOP 09 and Public Affairs, whose strong showing in the recent general elections would give them a comfortable 118-seat majority in the 200-strong lower house of Parliament. The two agreed on the need to form a government in such a way as to begin drafting a state budget for next year by the middle of July. Mr Nečas said ahead of the meeting with the president that the coalition talks were going well and he expected an agreement by the end of the month.
President Klaus will not be attending the weekend conference of the Civic Democratic Party, which he founded in 1991 and led for eleven years. Party leader Petr Nečas said that he was not disappointed by the absence and that Mr Klaus had already notified the party that his attendance would be unlikely. The president left a letter for the conference with Mr Nečas and asked that he read it to the assembly in person. Mr Klaus retained the party title of honorary chairman until two years ago, when he gave up his membership because he disagreed with the party’s direction.
President Klaus has appointed a new governor of the Czech National Bank, current vice-governor Miroslav Singer, who will take office on July 1. The outgoing governor, Zdeněk Tůma, who has held the office since the year 2000, announced his resignation in the spring, saying he wanted to make things easier for his successor. His second term of office was to end in February of 2011. Miroslav Singer has been the vice-governor of the central bank since 2005, and worked as one of the directors of PricewaterhouseCoopers ČR before that.
The Czech National Bank itself has released the results of tests it carried out that suggest that the Czech banking sector is healthy and resilient against risk. According to the resulting report, the stability of the country’s banking sector should not be jeopardized even by substantially negative economic developments. In the event of such negative developments, certain institutions would suffer losses that could require injections of capital from shareholders. The central bank tested the resilience of the financial sector using three alternative scenarios of future development. The greatest impact on the financial system would be caused by a loss of confidence that would lead to losses of roughly two percent of the entire financial sector – an amount that would require a relatively small injection of 5 billion crowns.
Police in Prague impounded an exhibit by the guerrilla art group Ztohoven that displayed falsified citizen identification cards. The police also detained one of the members of the group, who goes by the alias Roman Týc, in order to determine his identity. He was later released. The largely anonymous collective unveiled their latest social critique earlier this week in the form of an exhibition of 12 falsified IDs with which they had travelled, voted and even married over the last six months. The project, called “Citizen K” (a play on the word “ID card” in Czech) was ostensibly intended to show expose the ease with which personal information can be misused. Ztohoven came to public attention three years ago when they hacked into a Czech Television weather broadcast and superimposed an atomic explosion.
The European Commission has approved the Czech Republic’s plan for film production incentives. The programme allows the state to return up to 20% of the money spent by film productions in the Czech Republic and will be effective until the end of 2015. The scheme is intended to bring back what was a thriving industry until the first half of the decade, and was hurt by similar incentives being introduced in other European countries. In 2004 alone, foreign film production in the Czech Republic declined by 70%
The number of Czech citizens in foreign prisons decreased last year, while the percentage of those convicted of drug smuggling increased. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Friday that there were 623 Czechs either in custody or serving prison sentences abroad at the end of 2009, which marks a decrease of 125 people compared with the previous year. Of those, 103 were jailed for drug-related offences, particularly in Latin America. The largest single group of Czech prisoners was in Peru, where there were 19. According to the ministry, the true number of Czechs in foreign detention may be as much as five times higher, as consulates are not necessarily informed of each case.
The same report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that 414 lost their lives abroad in 2009, 18 less than the year before. Most of the deaths occurred in Slovakia, where there were 132 cases, followed at a distance by Germany and Austria. The number of Czechs hospitalised abroad also decreased to 347 from 422 in 2008. The number of car accidents involving Czechs in other countries also dropped.
The Association Entente Florale – Souznění has awarded its annual title of most beautiful train station to the depot in the central town of Choceň. The station, which lies on the track between Prague and Česká Třebová, was chosen from ten finalists on the basis of a public poll that gave it 900 of 3500 votes. The organizers of the prize say that the station was appreciated for the reconstruction of its central terminal, which maintained the Neo-Renaissance façade from the late 19th century. There are some 2500 train stations in the Czech Republic; last year’s winner was in the village of Zahrádky in Northern bohemia.