The Prague branch of the Civic Democratic party voted on Friday to renew membership for the former Prague mayor Pavel Bém. Mr Bém suspended his party membership last March after a scandal broke out over secret phone calls between him and a lobbyist Roman Janoušek from 2007. The conversations were made public in the Czech press causing speculations that Mr Bém was influenced by the lobbyist in decisions concerning a number of public tenders. Representatives of the Prague Civic Democrats said they see no reason to keep a high-ranking member out of the party when there is no concrete proof of wrongdoing.
Most political commentators have agreed that the Thursday night debate on Czech Television between the two presidential candidates – Karel Schwarzenberg and Miloš Zeman – ended in a draw. Mr Zeman tried attacking his opponent on a number of issues including his stance on the recent presidential amnesty, his opinion of the deportation of Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War Two, and the mistakes the foreign minister makes when speaking Czech. Mr Schwarzenberg fended off the criticism without changing his previously held positions on the issues. The candidates are scheduled to appear in two more televised debates and one more radio debate before Czechs vote in the second round of the presidential election next Friday.
The Prague state attorney’s office filed a lawsuit against the Czech fugitive businessman Radovan Krejčíř and ten other suspects on Friday. Mr Krejčíř is facing a number of charges including the intention to kill an important witness. Some of the defendants in the case who were previously under investigation were recently cleared of charges as a result of the presidential amnesty from January 1, but this will not apply to the new charges. The group is accused of a number of legal and financial crimes. Mr Krejčíř, who was handed a 15-year sentence last November for a number of other crimes, will so far be investigated and tried in absentia, since he escaped the country in 2005 and is currently residing in the Republic of Seychelles.
The Education Minister Petr Fiala met with regional governors to discuss planned changes to the financing of education that would give all regions the same amount of money per student depending on the field of study. Currently, there are different financing rules for all the regions. Mr Fiala is hoping to equalize the level of education in different regions by unifying the financing structure. The regional governments will form a working group that will work with the minister on the details of the changes.
The Constitutional Court will not deliberate on the complaint filed by members of the Public Affairs party over the law on church property restitution, because not enough parliamentarians had signed it. The Public Affairs party asked the court to strike the law down. The head of the party, Radek John, said that the requirement to have either 41 deputies from the lower house or 17 senators sign such a request to be considered by the court was discriminatory. He added that he plans to approach senators for support. Communist deputies are also preparing to file a legal complaint against the restitution law that was pushed through in the fall by the governing coalition.
The coalition government, led by Prime Minister Petr Nečas, survived a vote of no confidence on Thursday evening. The opposition initiated the vote in reaction to the recent presidential amnesty which had been counter-signed by the premier, which saw the release of more than 7,000 prisoners and halted, or threatens to halt, a number of major corruption and economic crime cases. The opposition was able to find support of 92 MPs - far short of the 101 needed to bring down the government. The attempt was the fifth by the opposition to topple the centre-right cabinet.
Friday is the last day that Czech citizens can submit written requests for absentee ballots for next week’s second round of the presidential election. In-person requests that can be submitted to the local administration offices in one’s home district by next Wednesday. Absentee ballots are meant for people who plan on voting in the upcoming elections outside of their permanent residency district.
The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn strongly criticised of the government’s decision to release from jail two Czechs – Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar – suspected of espionage. In an article on its webpage, the party said the court’s decision shows once again that the Greek government is not concerned with national security. It also supported the unsubstantiated allegations that the two Czech videogame developers were recruited to spy for the Turkish government. Mr Buchta and Ms Pezlar were released from jail this week after spending four months in custody and returned to the Czech Republic on Thursday.
Dozens of people paid tribute to cyclists and pedestrians who have died in Prague as a result of car accidents by participating in a communal bike ride across the city on Thursday afternoon. Similar bike rides are organized by the civic association Auto*mat once a month to promote cycling and safer roads in the capital. This particular event was dedicated to a former member of the association Jan Bouchal, who was hit by a car in 2006 while riding his bike and died from the injuries. Auto*mat is planning to install a memorial to Bouchal and other victims of car accidents, which was designed by the contemporary Czech sculptor Krištof Kintera.
Czech tennis player Radek Štepánek threw everything he had at world no. 1 Novak Djoković in their third-round match at the Australian Open, coming to the net on 67 occasions to try and dominate. But it wasn’t enough against the Serbian, who is the two-time defending champion. The match lasted two hours and 22 minutes and the final score was 6:4, 6:3, 7:5. Štepánek’s teammate Tomáš Berdych on the other hand had no trouble winning his third –round match against Jürgen Melzer. The only Czech left in the tournament, Berdych will face the South African Kevin Anderson in the fourth round.