A group of senators across the political spectrum is preparing a complaint to the Constitutional Court with regard to the scope of the amnesty declared by President Václav Klaus. According to Senator Alena Dernerová they want to try to get part of the amnesty annulled by the court. Among the most controversial points of the broad amnesty is the fact that it will most likely see the release of people suspected of massive corruption and embezzlement reaching into the top echelons of power. The opposition has accused the president of sweeping corruption cases relating to the privatization process from the 1990s under the carpet.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas, who counter-signed the amnesty has also come under fire over the decision. Under Czech law the government is ultimately responsible for the amnesty and the Civic Democratic Party’s coalition partners say they were not informed about the decision. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek of TOP 09 has refused to take responsibility for the controversial amnesty and the head of LIDEM Karolina Peake has said she expects an explanation at the government’s next session.
The Prague State Attorney’s Office has confirmed receiving a number of criminal complaints with regard to the amnesty. A spokesperson for the office said the complaints were being dealt with but refused to provide any further details. According to legal experts neither the president nor the prime minister can be investigated over the matter, not only because they have political immunity but because such an amnesty is fully within the president’s powers.
In line with the amnesty, Czech prisons have already released over 6,000 inmates. Another one thousand prisoners should be released in the coming hours. Overall the amnesty will relate to approximately 32 thousand people, among them 14 thousand with suspended sentences, 12 thousand sentenced to community work and 3 thousand currently under house arrest. Some cases will be closed. The amnestied crimes will not appear in people’s criminal records.
Talks are expected to take place in the coming days regarding the future of the coalition government. The smallest party in government, LIDEM, which announced its decision to leave the coalition in connection with the sacking of Karolína Peake from the post of defense minister shortly before Christmas, has nodded to the prime minister’s proposal for fresh negotiations. The talks should address the division of portfolios after LIDEM was forced to relinquish the defense ministry. TOP 09 has already said it would be unacceptable for the Civic Democrats to hold both the transport and defense ministries.
Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka has said his party would support lawyer Stanislav Kreček for the post of deputy to the Ombudsman. Mr. Kreček is one of two nominees for the post proposed by President Klaus. The other is the former supreme state attorney Renata Vesecká. The lower house is to vote on the matter by mid-February.
Prague City Transport is temporarily reducing the number of trams and busses in operation. A spokesman for the company said this was in response to lower demand at the start of the year, when the number of passengers regularly drops by about 10 percent. Between now and February 17th tram intervals will be extended from ten to twelve minutes, and from five to six on the main routes. Bus lines will also have longer intervals.
Persistent rain has resulted in local flooding in north-western Bohemia. Many villages in the Plzen, Karlovy Vary and Usti nad Labem regions are on high flood alert and firemen have been pumping water from gardens and cellars. Several smaller roads in the area have had to be closed to traffic. Although water levels have now stopped rising meteorologists are predicting more rain in the coming days.
Presidential candidate Miloš Zeman is widely perceived as the winner of a one-on-one television debate with his main rival Jan Fischer. Both experts and the public gave Mr. Zeman higher marks, saying he had appeared more confident, more at ease and better prepared than his rival. The two former prime ministers, who have been running neck to neck in recent polls, were also given questions in English and Russian to test their language skills. The debate organized by commercial TV Prima Family was tailored according to presidential debates in the US.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has rejected as unfounded safety concerns over the planned completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant saying the country fully adheres to all international safety norms. In an interview for the Austrian magazine Profil, Mr. Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic would not backtrack on its plans to build two more nuclear reactors at Temelin. He dismissed safety concerns stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster as irrelevant saying that the last tsunami the Czech lands experienced would have been about 500 million years ago and it was unlikely to occur for several thousand more years.