The newly appointed Defense Minister Karolína Peake (LIDEM) announced a number of personnel changes at the ministry on Thursday after officially taking up the post the day before. Ms Peake dismissed the first deputy defense minister, General Vlastimil Picek, the armaments director Pavel Bulant and an advisor. The new defense minister said that she has offered Mr Picek another position at the ministry, but added that she believes that top positions at the defense ministry should be occupied by civilians. Shadow Defense Minister Social Democrat Jan Hamáček criticized Peake for making major changes after announcing on Wednesday that she will not do so.
The Supreme Administrative Court ruled on Thursday that the Interior Ministry should register Jana Bobošíková as a presidential candidate, after the ministry rejected her application earlier citing an inadequate number of verifiable signatures. The court rejected the appeals of Tomio Okamura and Vladimír Dlouhý whose applications for candidacy were also previously rejected. There are now nine candidates who will be vying for the presidential post in the January elections.
Sixteen students from high schools in České Budejovice will hold a 24-hour hunger strike early next week to protest the naming of the Communist Party member Vítězslava Baborová as the regional councilwoman for education in South Bohemia. Students and teachers in a number of South Bohemian cities held street protests against the regional government coalition between the Social Democrats and the Communists in November, and have met with the regional governor, Social Democrat Jiří Zimola. But the regional council has not responded to their demands to put an end to the coalition with the Communist Party. The students have said they will begin the hunger strike at 6 p.m. on Monday and will continue for 24-hours. A street protest is also scheduled for Tuesday in České Budejovice, which will coincide with the one-year anniversary of the death of former president and dissident Václav Havel.
The central vehicle registry in Prague, as well as in Pardubice, Karvina, Kladno and Brno, has collapsed after the system was electronically connected to the government databases of people and property addresses. The vehicle registration system has had numerous functionality problems ever since it was launched this summer. The current outage means that the vehicle registration office is unable to complete most of the visitors’ requests. During this time of the year, 250 to 300 people go to the registration office daily. The former Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš was pressured to step down from his post due to problems with the central vehicle registry.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said that the Czech Republic will not join the European Banking Union, which was agreed on on Wednesday night by European heads of state. According to Mr Nečas’ statement, the Czech Republic has no reason to do so yet. Sweden, Poland and Hungary are also considering not joining the union at this point.
In a mock presidential election held at nearly 450 Czech secondary schools this week, Vladimír Franz received over 40 percent of the vote. Jan Fischer, a favourite in the polls ahead of January’s real presidential election, came in second with some 19 percent of the mock student vote, while Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg finished third with more than 14 percent. Party candidates – Civic Democrat Přemysl Sobotka and Social Democrat Jiří Dienstbier, finished last. Commentators believe the results reflect deep mistrust for political parties in the society. The mock election was organized by the human rights group People in Need to educate students and familiarize them with democratic elections.
The Civic Democrats want to include a proposal to provide scholarships for Czech students to attend top universities abroad in the new coalition agreement. The Hospodařské noviny daily reported that according to the proposal the scholarships would be given to high achievers who will be interested in studying subjects that are useful for public administration. Experts estimate that the government could send up to five students a year to study abroad, which would cost around ten million crowns from the annual budget.
Results of a poll by the PPF Factum agency that were released on Thursday show Miloš Zeman as the leading presidential candidate, for the first time since January. According to the poll Mr Zeman would receive 25.6 percent of the vote, with Jan Fischer trailing closely behind with 25 percent. Mr Fischer was ahead in all the previous polls, but also by a relatively small margin. According to the current Factum poll, vice-chairman of the Social Democratic Party Jiří Dienstbier is in third place with 10.6 percent.
The Václav Lídl gallery in Prague’s Vinohrady opened an exhibit of photographs of Czech presidents, from Tomáš G. Masaryk to the current presidential race. The exhibit includes photographs by famous photographers and some taken by amateurs. In total, some 11 thousand pictures are on display at the gallery .
The Czech Republic took 17th place among EU member countries in terms of its GDP per capita for last year, according to figures released by Eurostat. It improved by one place from the previous year, moving ahead of Greece. The Czech Republic has lower GDP per capita than three of the 12 newest EU member states – Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia.