The right-wing Civic Democrats have agreed a coalition deal with the Social Democrats at Prague City Hall. The former party’s candidate Bohuslav Svoboda, a doctor, will become mayor of the capital for the next four years. The new party TOP 09 came first in local elections last month with 30 percent of the vote, ending the Civic Democrats’ dominance in the capital. However, TOP 09’s efforts to form a coalition with their fellow right-wingers proved unsuccessful. Critics say the pact between the Civic and Social Democrats will do little to dispel allegations of corruption and clientelism at Prague City Hall.
Reacting to Tuesday’s news, Civic Democrat leader and Czech prime minister Petr Nečas said he regarded the coalition as a politically incorrect step. He said it would now be up to his party colleagues in the capital to persuade voters over the next four years that they had made the right decision. A senior member of TOP 09, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, slammed the deal, which he said had been agreed long before voting took place in mid-October. Mr Kalousek said the Prague coalition was a corrupt cartel and a con on voters, who had backed change.
Police have launched an investigation into allegations that Deputy Finance Minister Martin Barták solicited a bribe, Mladá fronta Dnes reported. Tatra supervisory board member and former US ambassador to Prague William Cabaniss told the same newspaper last week that while Mr Barták was deputy defence minister he had asked for cash to resolve a problem between the truck maker and a subcontractor. Another Tatra representative put the figure at millions of US dollars. Mr Barták, who has denied the charges, is now on unpaid leave.
The first case of swine flu this winter has been discovered in the Czech Republic. An 18-year-old student in the town of Jihlava was found in the last few days to have the H1N1 virus, the regional epidemiologist in Vysočina said on Tuesday. The first death from swine flu in this country was recorded in October last year. Since then 102 people have died after contracting the disease; the vast majority had already been suffering from some other illness.
A man has been arrested in Svitavy over the theft of a number of urns containing human ashes from a graveyard in the town. He had sold the urns for scrap metal, receiving CZK 700 (under USD 40). However, he kept the ashes in separate boxes at his home and on his arrest handed them over to the police, who said they had been aided in their investigation by media and public interest in the case. The man faces up to two years in jail if found guilty of theft and the desecration of human remains.
Twelve elementary school students from Lysá nad Labem in central Bohemia were taken to hospital on Tuesday after inhaling formaldehyde when a jar containing the compound broke during a lesson at their school. The pupils, who are aged 13, suffered burning eyes, coughing and breathing difficulties. Fire fighters were called out to deal with the spill, while police are investigating whether there is a case of negligence to be answered.
The Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has been drawn in the same group as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick in the eight-player ATP World Tour Finals. It is the first time that Berdych has reached the prestigious season-ending tournament, which gets underway in London on Sunday. The Czech, who is 25, reached a career high of sixth in the world rankings last month.
Czech ice hockey clubs have expressed confidence in the head of the country’s elite league the Extraliga, Stanislav Šulc, at an extraordinary meeting in Prague. Representatives of 12 of the league’s 14 clubs gave their backing to Mr Šulc during a vote on Tuesday, while two abstained. Mr Šulc is due to issue a verdict on Friday after an investigation into the failure of three clubs to register players correctly. Plzeň, Mladá Boleslav and Kladno all stand to be docked points for games in which unregistered players performed for them.
The English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion are hoping to buy the Czech international midfielder Jaroslav Plašil in January’s transfer window, the newspaper the Daily Mail reported. Plašil, who is 28 is currently at the French side Bordeax after spells at Monaco and Spain’s Ossasuna in. Meanwhile, there have been press reports that West Brom may loan their out-of-favour Czech striker Roman Bednář to Hull, who play in the second tier of English football.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said following a meeting with his Serbian counterpart Mirko Cvetkovic in Prague on Monday that the Czech Republic was ready to help Serbia prepare for accession talks with the EU. Serbia presented its accession application in December 2009, but has made slow progress first because of lukewarm cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia which was a prerequisite for the talks to begin and later due to insufficient reforms. The Czech prime minister said Prague was ready to offer its know-how once Belgrade had fulfilled the respective criteria for accession.