Candidates for president will be able to spend a maximum of 50 million crowns on their presidential campaign; 40 million in the first round of elections and ten million more in the second round, according to an agreement reached between the ruling parties and the opposition Social Democrats. Information regarding the amount spent and the source of the money should be available on the internet. A proposal by the Social Democrats to set a ceiling on donations from sponsors failed to win approval. Czechs are due to vote in direct presidential elections early next year. President Klaus’ second term in office will expire in March 2013.
The Senate has rejected a bill that would have stripped senators, deputies and constitutional court judges of life-long immunity to prosecution. Under the proposed legislation their immunity would have ended together with their term in office. Under the present law the officials in question can be charged and tried on condition that the lower or upper chamber votes to strip them of their immunity. The upper chamber makes the decision regarding constitutional court judges.
The Czech Helsinki Committee says that in the past decade anti-Roma sentiment in the country has risen by 15 percent. Petr Uhl a member of the committee said that according to various polls and studies anti-Roma sentiment among Czechs had risen from 60 to 75 percent in the last decade. He said the negative attitude towards the Roma minority was a contributing factor to the steady decline in the living standard of Romanies and was straining relations between the majority population and the Roma. Mr. Uhl praised the work of individuals and NGOs working to change this.
The head of the Association of Romanies’ Vladimir Glabavy has called on the Czech government to appoint a Romany rights commissioner. Mr. Glabavy said the commissioner should have a strong mandate and cooperate with the government agency for social inclusion in helping to resolve the minority’s growing problems.
Police president Petr Lessy is under increasing pressure from Interior Minister Jan Kubice who is questioning the manner in which the police president was selected for the post. Lessy was appointed to the post by a special committee set up by Mr. Kubice’s predecessor Radek John of Public Affairs whose party recently joined the opposition. Since there is no mechanism under which the police president can be recalled, Mr. Kubice is casting doubt on the selection process which brought him to office. The opposition Social Democvrats say this is a dangerous procedure since it might cast doubt on the validity of the decisions Mr. Lessy made in office.
The finance minister has defended his decision not to release the results of an audit at the Constitutional Court. Minister Kalousek came under fire from the economics daily Hospodářské Noviny on Thursday which suggested that he had moved to prevent the release of an audit which uncovered abuse of public funds at the Constitutional Court. The paper wrote that the audit had uncovered irregularities in accounting for petrol and other problems. Finance Minister Kalousek said in response to the article that the chairman of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetsky had questioned the audit in connection with the court’s independence, which was guaranteed by the constitution. Mr. Kalousek said that he did not want to take issue with this argument and had decided not to take the matter further.
A 31-year-old environment activist has received a two months suspended sentence for assaulting a police officer during a protest action to try to stop logging at the Šumava National Park last summer. At the time activists chained themselves to trees and the police used force to remove them from the area. The woman in question kicked a police officer in the head as she bent down to forcibly carry her away. The sentence is at the low end of the scale which allows a maximum four year sentence for assaulting an officer. The judge said the sentence was intended as a disciplinary measure rather than punishment.
Czech companies have secured contracts in Mongolia to the tune of four billion crowns, the Czech Trade and Industry Ministry reported at the end of a four day business mission to the country. The contracts signed are traditionally in the field of infrastructure as well as construction of heating plants, sewage and water facilities. Mongolia, now one of the region’s fastest growing economies, is a traditional Czech business partner with ties dating back to the mid-20th century.
The state-owned beer producer Budějovický Budvar on Thursday posted a gross profit of nearly 240 million crowns in 2011, an increase of 9.2 percent compared to the year before. Budvar’s beer sales rose by 5.5 percent and reached 1.32 million hectolitres. The brewery also last year registered record exports which rose by 7.7 percent annually.
The legend of Czech horse-racing, jockey Josef Vána is reported to have injured himself in training. According to the internet daily novinky.cz the 60-year-old Vána reportedly fell from his horse on Thursday morning and suffered a broken thigh bone. He was taken to the teaching hospital in Plzen. Vána is eight-times winner of the Velká Pardubice Steeplechase and in 2009 he received a Medal for Merit.