A few hundred protesters clashed with police in the south Bohemia city of České Budejovice on Saturday afternoon, news server iDnes reported. The protesters, who were chanting racists slogans, separated from a permitted gathering in the center of town and headed to the Máj neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, where some 200 Roma residents were holding a sanctioned meeting. The police have so far been able to keep the two groups away from each other, as members of the first group began throwing bottles and stones at the Romanies. Pepper spray and smoke grenades were used in an attempt to prevent a direct confrontation between the two groups. At least one police officer has been injured. Both gatherings were triggered by a fight that took place between five women in Máj last Friday. Some blamed the local Roma population for not intervening in the fight. On Saturday, a group of local Romani residents gathered to express their desire for better policing in the area, while demonstrators in the center of the city called for the end of violence from the local Romanies.
Former director of Czech Television, Jiří Balvín, accepted an offer from Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok to become the next culture minister. Mr. Rusnok, who was asked to form a caretaker technocrat government by President Zeman last week, has already three other ministerial positions filled – Martin Pecina accepted the post of interior minister, Marie Benešová is to be the new justice minister and Mirsolav Toman will lead the agriculture ministry. Mr. Rusnok said on Friday night said that he is happy with his progress of forming the interim cabinet, since in his first week on the job, he has been able to secure half of the positions. So far there is no indication that his cabinet would pass the vote of confidence in the lower house.
The interior ministry gave an overpriced tender to the Czech Post in 2009, according to an audit carried out by the Czech Supreme Audit Office. The ministry allegedly did not carry out proper analysis or price comparison before awarding the 1.4 billion crown deal for creating the electronic data mailbox system and running it for the first year. As a result, the government has been paying more for this service until this year, when the ministry was able to negotiate a new pricing arrangement with the Czech Post. Ivan Langer, who headed the ministry at the time of the alleged overpriced deal, has denied any wrongdoing.
The new owner of the MAFRA publishing house, businessman Andrej Babiš, made an irritated call to the political editor at the Lidové noviny (LN) daily, which is published by MAFRA, after repeatedly stating in preceding days that he will not interfere with editorial work of MAFRA’s publications. According to LN, during the Friday phone call, Mr. Babiš criticized the newspaper for not mentioning the presentation of his political campaign ANO 2011, which took place the previous day. After inquiries from the editorial board, the billionaire, who purchased MAFRA this past week, arrived at the LN office and apologized for the phone call, reiterating his promise not to interfere with editorial decisions. Mr. Babiš is planning to take his ANO 2011 party into the next parliamentary elections, and this week’s purchase of the publishing group, which also puts out the major Mladá fronta Dnes daily, was perceived by some observers as an attempt to gain media influence.
The police in Prague arrested a 34-year-old woman, suspected of drug trafficking, most likely from Spain to the Czech Republic. After the foreign-national collapsed on the street, medical examination revealed that she was carrying eight packages of methamphetamine inside her body, one of which broke. A 200-gram package of the same drug was found in her hand luggage. After being treated in hospital the woman was taken into police custody, where she admitted to receiving the drug in Spain from an unknown source and being instructed to deliver it to the Czech Republic. The Czech police have contacted their Spanish counterparts for assistance on the case.
The arrival of John Travolta at hotel Thermal for the opening ceremony of
the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Friday evoked unusual
excitement among Czech film fans and attracted record crowds, according to
some new sources. More than 2,000 people came to the late-night screening
of Grease on the same night. At the official opening gala evening,
received the Crystal Globe award for lifetime contribution to world cinema
and direct Michel Godry introduced his latest film Mood Indigo. One of the
most awaited events on Saturday is the screening of the new film Killing
Season, which stars John Travolta, who will be introducing it as well.
Czech director Vojtěch Jasný received the Festival President’s Prize at the screening of the digitally premastered version of his best-known film All My Compatriots. The 87-year-old film pro, who directed over fifty films, both in Czechoslovakia and abroad, actively took part in the digitalization process.
Petra Kvítová, whose third-round Wimbledon match against the Russian Ekaterina Makarova was suspended on Friday evening because of darkness, returned in excellent form on Saturday and finished off the match in 23 minutes with a 6:3, 2:6, 6:3 victory. Her fellow Czech singles player, Tomáš Berdych, will also continue on to the fourth round, after struggling in the first set, but in the end beating Kevin Anderson from South Africa in four sets: 3:6, 6:3, 6:4, 7:5. Two Czech female singles players Petra Cetkovská a Eva Birnerová lost their third round matches, while Klára Zakopalová is yet to face Li Na on Saturday evening.
The opposition Social Democrats say they would accept a second attempt to form a government should Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok’s cabinet fail to win a vote of confidence in the lower house. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka said on Friday that although the Social Democrats still favoured early elections as a resolution to the ongoing government crisis, they felt it was important to give the president an alternative to a centre-right coalition government led by the coalition’s nominee for prime minister Miroslava Nemcová. Under the Constitution the Czech president has two attempts at nominating a prime minister designate and the third goes to the speaker of the lower house, coincidentally Ms. Nemcová herself.
The Civic Democratic Party has described the Social Democrat’s offer as a futile attempt to gain control in the face of an existing right-wing majority in the Chamber of Deputies. The Speaker of the lower house Miroslava Nemcová said the only acceptable solution was to respect this majority, while Civic Democrat leader Martin Kuba noted the Social Democrats were desperately trying to regain control of the situation after several of their party members had nodded to offers to join the Rusnok cabinet, which is perceived by some as the president’s interim administration. On the other hand the centre-right TOP 09 noted that the Social Democratic Party’s request was legitimate and a Social Democrat cabinet would be better than the one now emerging.
Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok is selecting candidates for his interim government. On Friday he offered the post of environment minister to the vice-president of the Industrialists Union Radek Špicar. Mr. Špicar said he had taken until Monday to consider the offer. Jan Kohout has been offered the post of foreign minister, while Jaromir Schling is considering an offer to lead the transport ministry. The outgoing defense minister Vlastimil Picek has received an offer to continue in office. Three seats in the new cabinet are already filled. Martin Pecina is to be the new interior minister, Marie Benešová the new justice minister and Miroslav Toman is to head the agriculture ministry.