Former Social Democratic mayor Roman Onderka has been returned to the post in Brno. At a special session of the council he was elected unopposed and received the votes of right-wing Civic Democrats, Communists as well as his own party. The Social Democrats won just over 30 percent of votes in the mid-October elections, Civic Democrats around 22 percent and TOP 09 just over 14 percent. Some members of the Civic Democrats had called for a coalition with TOP 09 with support sought from some of the smaller parties. The Social Democrats with 19 seats and Civic Democrats with 14 seats have a clear majority in the 55-seat council.
The Constitutional Court has refused a pensioner’s complaint that he was not allowed to fully clear his name after being convicted for setting fire to a collective farm’s haystack as an anti-Communist protest in 1950. The conviction for endangering the public and three year jail sentence that went with it for Cyril Michalica was already quashed by a local court in Břeclav but the declaration of guilt was not. The High Court refused that request in 2007 because Mr. Michalica had not submitted his application in time. The Constitutional Court stood by that decision. As a 17-year-old, Mr. Michalica was a member of an anti-Communist group, Orel, and said that he planned the attack on the collective farm to highlight the violence that accompanied moves to collectivize private farms.
Cuban dissident Rolando Jiménez Posada was granted political asylum status at the Ministry of Interior on Thursday, 16 days after arriving in Prague from his homeland. Mr. Posada had served an almost eight year prison sentence in Cuba for criticising the regime. He was part of a contingent of around 50 political prisoners who were offered their freedom earlier this year and the only one so far who took up the Czech offer of asylum. The promise of rapid asylum from the Ministry of Interior has drawn critical comments from Czech groups helping other asylum seekers, They pointed out that these people often had to wait a year or longer to have their applications processed.
European cross country cycling champion and world championship cross country silver medallist Jaroslav Kulhavý has been voted Czech cyclist of the year by the country’s cycling federation. The 25-year-old takes the title for the first time and dethones the 2009 and 2008 winner of the award, road racer Roman Kreuziger. Kulhavý also won a bronze medal in the world championships in the relay event.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych made it into the prestigious year end World Tour Finals tournament in London starting on November 13 for the first time. He achieved this without hitting a ball on Thursday when one of the rivals for one of the eight places, Fernando Verdasco, lost to Frenchman Gael Monfils in the Paris Masters 7:6, 6:7, 5:7.
The Czech weather office has warned of winds of up to 145 kilometres an hour on high places from Thursday evening. The winds should ease by Friday morning. The gusts could topple electricity pylons, fell trees and endanger transport with the office warning people to stay away from exposed sites during the danger period.
More potential candidates have emerged for the post of chairman of the Social Democrats. Acting leader Bohuslav Sobotka and Michal Hašek announced their candidatures soon after the resignation of former chair Jiří Paroubek in May. They have now been joined by Martin Pecina, who has already received one nomination, while Lubomír Zaoralek told one of Wednesday’s newspapers he was considering standing, and the party’s recent candidate for Prague mayor Jiří Dientsbier Jr said he would not rule out running for the position. It will be decided by delegates at a Social Democrats conference in March.
The Social Democrats, who finished first in general elections in May, would again win if a vote was held now, suggests a new SANEP poll. Some 29.3 percent of respondents in the internet-based survey said they would cast their ballots for the party. The poll indicates that TOP 09 would finish second with 18.7 percent, just shading their rivals on the right, the Civic Democrats. The Communists would finish fourth on 13.7 percent, followed by Public Affairs on 8.3, while the Christian Democrats would return to the lower house with 5.7 percent support, the survey suggests.
The Czech minister of education, Josef Dobeš, says a decree on increasing the integration of Romany children into regular Czech schools will be prepared by January for approval in the New Year. Mr Dobeš made the statement a day after non-governmental organisations complained that enough was still not being done to combat racial discrimination against Romany pupils. Three years after the European Court of Human Rights found the Czech state guilty of such discrimination for sending many Romany children to schools for the mentally handicapped, the NGOs have threatened to take fresh legal action against the country if more progress is not made.
Around 1,300 Czech Roman Catholics who have made a three-day pilgrimage to the Vatican had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at St Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday. The group presented a valuable hand-made Bible to the pontiff, who thanked them for the welcome he had received on a visit to the Czech Republic last year. As well as senior figures in the Czech Catholic church, the delegation included the country’s foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, and the wife of President Václav Klaus, Livia.