President Miloš Zeman has appointed economist Jiří Rusnok to succeed
Petr Nečas as prime minister of the Czech Republic. Mr. Rusnok will head
caretaker cabinet. Aged 52, he was finance minister under then PM Zeman in
the early 2000s before serving as minister of industry and trade.
Mr. Rusnok’s government may find it difficult to win a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies. The outgoing centre-right coalition had wanted to continue under another leader, while the left-wing parties have said that an interim cabinet is acceptable as long as early elections are held as soon as possible. The technocrat government is expected to be in power for several months. The next regular elections are set to take place in May 2014.
Speaking after his appointment, Prime Minister Rusnok said his cabinet should be in place within two weeks. He said his government’s priorities would be to prepare a budget, the system of drawing European Union funds and helping those affected by recent flooding in the Czech Republic. For his part, President Zeman said he would play no role in the selection of ministers, adding that a technocrat government was the best guarantee that political scandals would be investigated.
The two biggest parties in the outgoing government, the Civic Democrats
and TOP 09, say they will not vote for the dissolution of Parliament and
early elections as long as they have enough support to win a confidence
vote. On Tuesday they said they had gathered 101 signatures in support of
Miroslava Němcová of the Civic Democrats, who had been their candidate
for PM. That number would be enough to give them a majority in the Chamber
President Zeman said on Tuesday that he would consider appointing Miroslava Němcová if Jiří Rusnok’s government failed to win support.
The president has two chances to appoint a prime minister and if that PM’s government does not win a confidence vote within 30 days of being named, it is the turn of the speaker of the lower house to appoint a prime minister. Mrs. Němcová holds that position.
The smallest party in the outgoing coalition, LIDEM, backed their hitherto partners on Tuesday. However, they have also said they would not rule out supporting the Rusnok government in a confidence vote.
Radka Nečasová, the wife of the outgoing Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, has refused to answer police questions linked to alleged illegal surveillance of her by the Military Intelligence. The information comes from the lawyer of Jana Nagyová, who is a former close aide of Mr. Nečas and is in custody on charges of ordering the spying and other crimes. The police say Ms. Nagyová, who has been romantically linked to the outgoing PM, had the surveillance carried out for purely personal reasons. The affair led to Mr. Nečas’s resignation after three years as head of government.
The literary historian Martin C. Putna has been made professor. The title was conferred on the academic on Tuesday by the minister of education, Petr Fiala, after President Miloš Zeman refused to present Mr. Putna with a professorial decree on the grounds that he had carried a provocative sign in a gay pride parade. Mr. Zeman's position was widely criticised in the academic community. The president has since said the right to appoint professors should be removed from the head of state, a move that would put the Czech Republic in line with other European countries.
Heavy rains have caused rivers to swell in some parts of the Czech Republic, just weeks after extensive flooding in areas of Bohemia. The Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute said on Tuesday that flood levels had been reached on 60 stretches of river, particularly in southern and eastern Bohemia and southern Moravia. Fire officers have been called out to pump out cellars, gardens and roads in some spots. Meanwhile, the Central Floods Commission has asked the government to deploy soldiers to help with cleanup operations for longer than originally planned.
Businessman Andrej Babiš has denied reports that he has bought the Czech branch of Ringier Axel Springer. The publishing company owns a number of titles, including the biggest Czech tabloids Blesk and Aha! There had been speculation for some time that Mr. Babiš, who owns some of the Czech Republic’s largest food companies and other concerns, was planning to buy the publisher and one news site reported on Monday that he had done so last week for CZK 4 billion. As well as his business interests, Mr. Babiš has a political party named ANO 2011.
An exhibition of Czech photographers who worked in the pictorialist style has begun at the Ateliér Josefa Sudka gallery in Prague. Among the artists represented are František Drtikol, Jaromír Funke, Jan Lauschmann, Drahomír Josef Růžička and Josef Sudek. Pictorialism, which was common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is a style in which the photographer manipulates a photograph in such a way as to create rather than simply record an image. The exhibition runs until August 30.
The Czech ice hockey players Michal Rozsíval and Michael Frolík have lifted the NHL's Stanely Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. Frolík provided an assist for the winning goal in the Blackhawks' 3:2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday night, a result that gave his club an unassailable 4:2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Two more Czechs, David Krejčí, the most productive player in the playoffs, and veteran Jaromír Jágr were on the losing side.
According to news reports, President Miloš Zeman on Tuesday will reveal plans for forming an interim government as a solution to the ongoing government crisis. A close ally of Mr Zeman’s, former finance minister Jiří Rusnok, is being described as a favourite for the post of prime minister designate. A technocratic government could theoretically rule either until a scheduled national election next year or for a shorter period leading up to early elections. The Czech news agency reported that the president is in favour of the cabinet including government, business and union leaders. If he keeps his word, the decision will scupper the centre-right coalition’s proposal for candidate Miroslava Němcová to become the country’s first female prime minister.