The chairman of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, says it would be nonsensical to drag his party into a “war” with President Miloš Zeman. Speaking on a TV debate show, Mr. Sobotka said that would weaken the Social Democrats and was just what rival parties wished to see. The head of Mr. Zeman’s office, Vratislav Mynář, recently described Mr. Sobotka as weak for allegedly being inconsist. The latter said on Sunday that Mr. Mynář was a public servant and ought not to be politically active. While Mr. Sobotka has in the past said that the dissolution of parliament is the only way forward in the current political situation, some elements of his party believed to have closer ties to the president (who formerly headed the Social Democrats) have suggested they should consider voting for an interim cabinet backed by the president if a vote on dissolving the lower house fails next Wednesday.
MP Michal Babák of the Public Affairs party made an apparent anti-Semitic comment relating to Finance Minister Jan Fischer during a TV debate programme on Sunday. After prefacing his comments by saying they did not contain any racist allusions, Mr. Babák said that no Jew could be worse for the state coffers than Miroslav Kalousek, Mr. Fischer’s predecessor at the Ministry of Finance. The deputy had earlier said that Public Affairs would only back the interim government in a confidence vote if Mr. Fischer thoroughly explained the financing of his failed presidential campaign. In the week prior to his appointment he received over CZK 5 million in donations from sponsors, allowing him to clear campaign debts. Since then the minister has refused to discuss the matter.
The former Czech foreign minister, TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg, has suggested that the recent actions of President Miloš Zeman, who appointed an interim government despite the wishes of some parliamentary parties, represent an attempt to usurp state power. In an interview for an Austrian newspaper on Sunday, Mr. Schwarzenberg compared Mr. Zeman’s interpretation of the constitution to that of the Nazis in Germany in 1933 and the Communists in Czechoslovakia in 1948. Michal Hašek of the president’s former party the Social Democrats called for an apology from Mr. Schwarzenberg, who Mr. Zeman defeated to become head of state in an election in January.
The mayor of České Budějovice has called on residents of a district of the city which has recently seen violent anti-Romany protests to contribute to a reduction in racial tension. Juraj Thoma told Czech Radio that his office had attempted to persuade Romany leaders to encourage quieter behaviour; he said they should understand it was unpleasant for people to go to work in the morning after having to call the police at midnight because of high noise levels. On Saturday dozens of protesters were detained as they tried to enter the Romany-dominated Máj housing estate. Tensions were sparked when a fight broke at a children’s playground there last month.
The chairwoman of the Energy Regulatory Office, Alena Vitásková, has been provided with police protection after an attack on her while she was driving, the news website Týden.cz said. She reported that another driver had attempted to force her car off a motorway in April. The police and the secret service are investigating the incident. Under Ms. Vitásková’s leadership, the energy authority has launched extensive audits and investigated alleged inflated solar power prices; she has also been critical of a financial support for bio-fuel stations that are due to be connected the national grid next year.
Sunday marks the 200th anniversary of birth of the pioneering Czech traveller Čeněk Paclt. Born in Turnov in east Bohemia on 14 July 1813, Paclt was the first Czech to visit all the globe’s inhabited continents. He fought with the U.S. army in the Mexican-American War and was a gold miner in India and Australia before dying in South Africa at the age of 73.
Sprinter Pavel Maslák has set a new Czech record in the 200 metres. Maslák recorded a time of 20.49 seconds in the 200m final at the European Athletics Under 23 Championships in Finland’s Tampere on Saturday, a result that also secured him a bronze medal. Prior to the meeting, the 22-year-old from Havířov had a personal best of 20.59 seconds in the event.
Social Democrats’ chairman Bohuslav Sobotka says Jan Fischer should step down as finance minister in the interim Czech government over alleged opaque financing of his presidential campaign. In interviews with a number of Saturday’s newspapers, Mr. Sobotka said Mr. Fischer’s remaining in office could be an insurmountable hurdle for the Social Democrats in a vote of confidence in Jiří Rusnok’s caretaker cabinet. Jan Fischer received over CZK 5 million in donations from sponsors, much of it in cash, in the week prior to his appointment, allowing him to clear debts arising from an unsuccessful presidential campaign earlier this year.
President Miloš Zeman, who chose Mr. Rusnok as interim prime minister, has invited the heads of the groups in parliament for talks at Prague Castle in a bid to win support for the government. The first such meeting should take place on July 22. A vote of confidence in the caretaker cabinet is expected on August 8. While it had initially appeared unlikely that the government could win such a vote, the parties elected to the lower house are divided on how to proceed and some Social Democrats have indicated they may give the government the nod if a vote to dissolve parliament next Wednesday is unsuccessful.
Former prime minister Petr Nečas has confirmed speculation that he is involved in a romantic relationship with his erstwhile chief of staff Jana Nagyová. She is in custody on charges relating to corruption and ordering illegal spying on Mr. Nečas’s estranged wife and was at the centre of a scandal that led to the fall of his government last month. The ex-PM told the newspaper Právo that he stands by Ms. Nagyová and foresees a future with her. He himself was questioned on Friday by the police, who say he secured lucrative positions for former MPs for his party in exchange for political favours; their case hinges on whether that amounted to corruption.
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