The government has approved continuing the Czech Republic’s mission in Afghanistan through 2014, while gradually reducing the number of personnel. According to the plan, 539 people will serve next year, but a maximum of 340 a year after that. The gradual drawdown is in keeping with NATO’s plans to reduce alliance forces, and hand Afghans responsibility for their security in 2014. That year, some 50 Czech personnel will also serve in Iceland, helping protect Icelandic airspace. Pilots will have four Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets at their disposal.
A new poll conducted by the STEM agency has suggested that the majority of
Czechs rate the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party as the main
proponent of government reforms, despite the fact that that not it but
fellow right-wing party TOP 09 holds key ministries, including Finance and
Health. According to the poll, 53 percent of those surveyed named the Civic
Democrats, 41 TOP 09 and just six percent the former government coalition
party Public Affairs, replaced by a political platform led by Karolína
Peake (who is founding a new party to be called LIDEM or For the People).
Those surveyed were also asked which party in government was the most thorough in seeing the government’s programme fulfilled: there, TOP 09 received 43 percent, the Civic Democrats 42. In general, government has not done well in numerous recent opinion polls, in which a majority of potential voters have expressed opposition to wide-reaching reforms.
Students on Wednesday began the second part of their high school leaving exams. Meanwhile, those who recently undertook the advanced written test in math – that was later deemed too difficult for their level – were able to learn their results on Wednesday. Although teachers officially softened marking of the botched exam, the EDUin organisation says the failure rate in the advanced math test ballooned by 360 percent compared to the previous year.
Residents and visitors in Prague and Kutná hora will be able to experience Literature Night 2012 on Wednesday. Fifteen spots in Prague’s Smíchov area will see readings of the latest translation of European authors by well-known figures such as Matěj Hádek, Miroslav Táborský and Daniela Kolářová. Dozens of cities and towns across Europe are taking part in the event.
National hockey coach Alois Hadamczik is keeping quiet about who he will put in net in the quarterfinal game between the Czech Republic and Sweden at the World Championship in ice hockey. The Czech squad - under Hadamczik – has never won against Sweden at either the Olympics or the Worlds, so players will have their work cut out for them on Thursday. The coach could go with either goalie Jakub Kovář or Jakub Štěpánek. Who will start is already known to the goalies, but both are keeping silent ahead of the match. Hadamczik told the media simply that he wanted to keep his opponents guessing.
Police on Tuesday charged Social Democrat MP and Central Bohemian governor David Rath with corruption. The police were able to charge the governor unusually quickly due to the fact that he was caught in the act, which gives prosecutors the chance to circumvent a law on MP immunity under which the chair of the lower house of Parliament first has to give their approval for the criminal prosecution of an MP to go ahead. Along with the MP and governor, seven other people were arrested. The regional prosecutor said they were suspected of damaging the EU’s financial interests, bribery and corruption. The news website idnes.cz reported the arrests were linked to an investigation of public procurements paid for by EU funds.
Commenting on the arrest of David Rath, Social Democrats leader Bohuslav Sobotka on Tuesday said that the governor and MP should resign from all of his posts and discontinue his membership in the party. He added that Mr Rath should refrain from running for a political post in the upcoming regional elections set to take place in the fall. The deputy leader of the Social Democrats, Jiří Dienstbier, who is the party’s official candidate for the presidential race, on Tuesday also said that should the corruption charges against MP and Governor David Rath prove to be true, Mr Rath should resign from all his posts.
Former leader of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, on Tuesday commented on David Rath’s arrest, stating that the case demonstrated the party had failed to become a viable alternative to the right-of-center parties. He added that in many regions, governors of the Social Democratic party used politics as a means for enterprise. Mr Paroubek called the opposition party “a clone” of the Civic Democrats, some of whose senior officials have come under suspicion of corruption in the past. The former Social Democrats’ leader, who is currently the head of the left-leaning NS-LEV 21, made it clear that he feels the Social Democrats had failed in implementing their anti-corruption agenda. Since the 2008 regional elections, the party has been governing all of the country’s regions with the exception of Prague.
The exact circumstances of the arrest of governor and MP David Rath have been the subject of media reports. According to the lidovky.cz, the news site of the daily Lidové noviny, David Rath was carrying a shoebox with about 7 million Czech crowns on his person when he was arrested. Citing trustworthy sources, the news site Českápozice.cz wrote that Mr Rath was caught while accepting a 5-million-crown bribe. Later on Tuesday, police confirmed that Mr Rath was arrested with seven million crowns on his person. Should he be found guilty of accepting a bribe, Mr Rath could face up to 12 years in prison.
Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, speaking on the financial problems in Greece, said that the best solution to the country’s debt crisis would be to leave the Eurozone. At negotiations with the EU’s finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesdays, Mr Kalousek gave his opinion on the matter. He added that unless Greece stuck to the conditions of the bail-out plan, it could not remain a member of the Eurozone. What consequences it would have for the Czech Republic if Greece left the common currency union was difficult to predict, he said. On Tuesday afternoon, rival political leaders failed to reach an agreement on the formation of a new Greek government. Snap elections will have to be held again.