Former prime minister Jiří Paroubek has been elected chairman of the new
leftist party LEV 21– receiving 233 votes out of 235 delegates present
the party’s convention in Prague on Saturday (two abstained). Jaroslav
Král, head of the party’s preparatory committee, called the new leader
“every inch a socialist”. The party’s name is an acronym for
“Left” but also means “lion” in Czech. Committee members told
delegates that LEV 21 will cooperate closely with the extra-parliamentary
Czech Social and National Party (CSNS 2005). They said the two parties
act jointly from now on.
Up until last year Jiří Paroubek was the head of the opposition Social Democrats but stepped down as party leader after a poorer-than-expected result in the 2010 general election. He later left the party over disagreement with its current direction.
Business magnate Andrej Babiš – chairman and majority owner of Agrofert
– is aiming to make inroads into Czech politics reports the daily Mladá
fronta Dnes. Several weeks ago Mr Babiš founded an initiative known as
Akci nespokojených občanů (ANO 2011) in the aim of drawing attention to
corruption and other problems faced by the government. The businessman
the Czech newspaper that he had ambitions to succeed in parliamentary
elections in 2014, suggesting that politicians currently in power were not
doing a good job. His initiative’s aims are to push for greater
better legislation and a better justice system, Mr Babiš said.
Several parties in the past have also run on anti-corruption platforms: Public Affairs, an upstart party prior to the last elections gained seats in the lower house and consequently a spot in the current centre-right government on the basis of its anti-corruption message.
Members of the country’s anti-organised crime unit worked late into Friday evening securing evidence and sealing off the head office at Prague’s Municipal Police headquarters after the arrest of the city police head Vladimír Kotrouš for allegedly accepting a bribe. Items seized for reasons of evidence included personal computers, an inside source told Mladá fronta Dnes. Mr Kotrouš was arrested in his car on Friday shortly after receiving the alleged bribe and apparently valuable items for an undisclosed service, the daily wrote. Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda has expressed concern over the case: Mr Kotrouš has headed Prague’s Municipal Police since 2002, but has been with the force ten years longer than that.
Fire fighters responded to a fire in a six-story building in Smíchov, Prague, on Saturday, in an apartment police suspect was being used for the cooking and production of illegal drugs. The fire broke out shortly after 9 am in an empty fifth floor apartment – possibly the result of an explosion. No one was injured. According to as yet unofficial information the police received an anonymous call from the drug manufacturer himself after the accident. The man called after escaping the scene; he has not been apprehended.
A 45-year-old Italian national was killed on Friday afternoon when he
accidentally fell from Prague’s historic Charles Bridge. According to a
police spokesman, the tourist lost his balance while trying to take a
picture of one of the bridge’s many statues. The tragedy took place at
around four-thirty pm at Na Kampě street in the Malá Strana quarter: the
man died on the spot.
In 2003, another Italian just 19-years-old died at the bridge when – apparently under the influence of alcohol – he fell and drowned. In 2005, a visitor from Slovakia leapt from the bridge and was killed when he hit only shallow water below.
This year’s Jindřich Chalupecký Prize for best artist in the Czech Republic under the age of 35 has been won by film and video creator Marek Ther. In its choice the international jury praised the artist’s courage in challenging social taboos and prejudices. Curator Rainer Fuchs at DOX Gallery on Friday pointed out that “beauty and horror presented in Ther’s work were not mutually exclusive”. Mr Ther is a graduate of Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts where he studied painting under Vladimír Škrepl; he soon left painting behind, however, in favor of New Media using video and film.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has booked a spot in the semi-finals of the prestigious ATP World Finals after beating Spanish opponent David Ferrer in London on Friday evening. The Spaniard took control of the match by winning the first set, but was then edged by the world No. 7 in the second. Berdych continued his momentum in the final set, leading 5:0 before Ferrer picked up a lone game. The final score was 3:6, 7:5, 6:1. It is the first time that Tomáš Berdych, a Wimbledon finalist, has qualified for the semis in the season-ending tournament; he will now face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. His win over Ferrer in the round-robin stage knocked world No. 1 Novak Djokovic - who had a phenomenal season this year - out of the tournament.
President Vaclav Klaus has written a letter to his Zambian counterpart requesting justice for the three Czechs who are to go on trial for spying. The president expressed the hope that the case would be speedily and justly resolved. He said he was conviced that the three men were innocent of any wrongdoing, and had merely wanted to take home snapshots of an exhibited Czechoslovak plane. The Czech nationals face 25 years in prison for having taken photographs of an old plane displayed outside a military base in Lusaka. The Czech government has sent a special envoy to the country in the hope of assisting their case.
The head of Prague’s city police Vladimir Kotrouš has been arrested on suspicion of corruption. According to the internet news site lidovky.cz Mr. Kotrouš was arrested by members of the anti-organized crime squad on Friday morning and is being questioned. He is suspected of having accepted a bribe. Mr. Kotrouš was appointed to the post in 2002. He has been with the force for ten years.
Some 500 people are reported to have taken part in Friday’s trade union rally against widespread corruption in the Czech Republic. The protesters marched to the lower house of Parliament where they handed over a petition calling for the setting up of a parliamentary commission which would oversee the investigation of large-scale corruption cases. Prime Minister Petr Nečas recently criticized the protest, saying that his government had made its anti-corruption strategy a top priority and was doing everything possible to curb the problem.