Rejecting a motion by the opposition Social Democrats, the Czech Constitutional Court on Wednesday upheld part of the government’s health care reform under which employees receive no pay during the first three days of sick leave. The court struck down a similar measure in the past but the government passed an amended version of the reform which the court said did not constitute a major issue for patients. Reacting to the verdict, Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said his party would have to win the next elections to have that piece of legislation removed.
Police have interrogated the 51-year-old woman who became the victim of a hit-and-run accident involving the notorious Prague lobbyist Roman Janoušek. According to the woman’s lawyer, Wednesday’s interrogation lasted roughly one hour. The testimony of the Vietnamese-born woman, who was treated at hospital for weeks following the accident, confirmed details of the police investigation and appeared truthful, her lawyer added. In late April, the hit-and-run accident made headlines. Days before it occurred, wire taps of conversations between entrepreneur Roman Janoušek and former Prague mayor Pavel Bém, over whom he is said to have had considerable influence, became public.
After eight years of delays, the Czech Republic has ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, according to information released by the Health Ministry on Thursday. The Czech Republic was the last EU country to ratify the treaty, which seeks to protect the health of present and future generations. President Václav Klaus signed the treaty into law May 2. Some 170 countries worldwide have signed the treaty. In the Czech Republic, some 30 percent of those aged 15 and above smoke, while the smoking rate of those aged between 15 and 18 even reaches 40 percent.
The former junior coalition partner, Public Affairs, will be electing its new leader at a conference in Hradec Králové on the weekend. Following the walk-out of Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake and several other MPs, the party is making an effort to regroup and consolidate. Its current leader, Radek John, told press on Thursday that if a candidate with the necessary strength and the ability to unite the party can be found, he would prefer to not run for the post. He added that there are two to three candidates who he considers capable but refused to specify who they were.
In related news, the new faction around Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake, formerly of Public Affairs, has not yet managed to collect the signatures necessary to form a new party. According to news reports, the group with the name LIDEM has only collected some 1000 signatures and is short of the 5000-signature target. LIDEM has extended the deadline for signing until next week. At a news conference last week, the faction had announced its new name. Mrs Peake founded the group after walking out on junior coalition partner Public Affairs last week over the way the party presented itself. Her split with the party and the subsequent walk-out of some of its other members cast serious doubt over the future of the government coalition; however, it survived a vote of confidence.
Some 90 percent of Czechs are deeply unhappy with the current political situation in their country, according to a fresh poll released by the STEM agency. Only one percent of those polled said that they were satisfied with the country’s status quo. When asked how they rate the future development of the nation, more than half of the respondents replied with “very bad” while only 8 percent said they believed the country would be going in the right direction. The result is the worst in 17 years, STEM agency staff said.
The leader of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, has said that the party’s pick to run for the post of president is its deputy leader, Senator Jiří Dienstbier. Economist Jan Švejnar, who was also being discussed as a possible candidate on the party’s ticket, has said he does not want to be the Social Democrats’ exclusive pick. Mr Sobotka refused to speculate on further candidates his party may choose to send into the presidential race. Next year, Czechs will be able to elect their new president directly for the first time.
Activists from the Prague chapter of Greenpeace on Thursday started their month-long campaign against petroleum exploration in the Antarctic. Environmentalists climbed on the roof of a Shell gas station in the city and hung a banner from it. Shell is the first major oil company to have started preparations for oil extraction under Arctic ice. The aim of the Greenpeace campaign is to raise awareness of the consequences of petroleum exploration, which the organization says could pose a serious threat to the world’s most untouched ecosystem. Among the animals that could be affected by a possible disaster as a consequence of Arctic drilling is the polar bear, who is also the mascot of the campaign.
The most-read Czech daily is the tabloid Blesk with some 1.24 million readers in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, fresh data released by the agencies GfK Czech and Median in collaboration with the publishers’ union suggests. The daily Mladá fronta dnes came in second with nearly 800,000 readers. The left-leaning Právo occupied third place with some 384,000 readers. According to the survey, about a third of respondents have purchased at least one daily in the last 14 days, while some 88 percent of the population read at least one magazine regularly.
A cold front brings thunderstorms, hail and strong winds to the Czech Republic on Friday night, ahead of the feast days of the Ice Saints. The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute issued a warning for the time span between 6 p.m. on Friday and 4 a.m. on Saturday. The cold front also brings a drop in temperatures to about 15 degrees Celsius. Cooler conditions are expected to last into next week.