President Václav Klaus on Friday accepted the formal resignation of Prime Minister Jan Fischer’s caretaker government and asked the cabinet to remain in office until a new administration is in place. Three parties – the Civic Democrats, TOP09 and Public Affairs – are in talks to form a centre-right coalition and are expected to wrap up negotiations in mid-July. Prime Minister Fischer’s caretaker government has been in office since May 2009 after a previous right-of-centre government was toppled in a no-confidence vote.
The three parties negotiating a coalition government on Friday reached agreement on a number of anti-corruption measures. Among them are giving incentives to informers, establishing a system under which lobbying would be more transparent and making decisions about tenders public, whereby individual board or cabinet members would be bound by law to reveal who they voted for. The talks on a common anti-corruption policy will continue on Monday. The three parties have already agreed on direct presidential elections and restricting the immunity of deputies and senators. On Friday they also agreed on the prerequisite for holding a local referendum: a petition signed by 250,000 people.
The emerging coalition’s plan to increase salaries for new teachers in order to get more young people to take up the profession has not been well received in schools. Headmasters point out that all teachers are severely underpaid and giving new teachers a higher starting salary than that paid to people with 18 or more years of experience will create bad blood. A teacher’s starting salary is now approximately 13,000 crowns a month, that of a teacher with 30 years’ experience is approximately 23,000.
The Health Ministry has produced an action plan to fight poor nutrition in hospitals and old age homes. Medical surveys indicate that this is a serious problem in the Czech Republic – 40 percent of hospital patients were found to be underfed and 60 percent of people in old age homes were severely undernourished, some on the brink of starvation. The main reason is neglect from staff who serve up food and ignore the fact that an elderly patient is unable to feed themselves. The plan envisages diet nurses who would monitor patients nutrition and make sure they are adequately fed. The problem is also related to the quality of food in Czech hospitals which is frequently not up to standard.
Saxony traffic police were out in force in the border areas with Poland and the Czech Republic on Friday, conducting road checks in connection with organized car theft. Local authorities say that car theft has increased since the opening of borders and some politicians are calling for the re-introduction of border checkpoints. Czech politicians have criticized the policy of targeting Czech drivers as harassment but Saxony Interior Minister Markus Ulbig says that 180 suspect cases since the beginning of the year speak for themselves. Car theft in Saxony is reported to have increased by 32 percent in the course of last year.
Hundreds of people attended a funeral ceremony for the late actor Vladimir Dlouhý on Friday. The popular theatre and film actor lost his battle with stomach cancer on Sunday at the age of 52. The ceremony, held at Strašnice crematorium was attended by leading film and theatre directors, actors and fans, many of whom failed to get into the crowded hall. Next to the coffin were a half-empty glass of beer and a packet of cigarettes – two of life’s pleasures which the actor was never able to give up. Among the flower tributes was a big wreath from the outgoing prime minister, Jan Fischer.
The head of the Social Democrats PR department Petr Dimun has resigned, following criticism of his work in the wake of the party’s election debacle. Mr. Dimun’s resignation follows that of Jaroslav Tvrdý, the party’s election manager. Although the party won the highest number of votes in May’s general elections it did not do as well as it had hoped and was sidelined from the post-election negotiations by the lack of a potential coalition partner.
A man driving a stolen car was chased by police from Prague’s Letná Plain to Holešovice district at midday Friday, putting drivers and pedestrians at risk and smashing three cars before he was apprehended. The police eventually forced him into a blind alley and ended the wild chase. The man and a fellow passenger are now being questioned by police. Luckily no one was hurt in the incident.
An eighteen-month-old toddler was killed by an express train in the town of Vráňany near Prague after leaving her grandmother’s side unnoticed. The child apparently wandered off, got onto the tracks and walked along them to meet an oncoming express train. She was killed on impact. The child’s grandmother has had a nervous breakdown. The police are investigating the accident on suspicion of negligence.
A thirty-three-year old man from west Bohemia has been sentenced to seven and a half years in jail for molesting and sexually abusing three schoolgirls between the age of 11 and 13. One of the girls was raped, the other two were sexually abused. The man knew all the girls well having intentionally approached and made friends with their parents. When he left the courthouse the man was wearing a mask for fear that the girls relatives would want to take their revenge.