Interim Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok has told the news site aktualne.cz
that his government could continue to rule for several months even if it
fails to find support in next Wednesday’s confidence vote. The economist
referred to the Constitution as well as the rule of a previous government
under similar circumstances. The Chamber of Deputies
is to hold the vote on the future of the cabinet beginning 10 AM on
Wednesday. Only two parties in the chamber have expressed support, the
Communists and Public Affairs; the opposition Social Democrats remain
divided over the issue.
If the former centre-right coalition can shore-up a 101-majority as claimed, there is no chance Mr Rusnok’s government would be able to pass. The prime minister, a close associate of President Zeman’s, will visit deputies’ clubs to try and boost support. According to one report, he will not receive an invitation from the Civic Democrats, who oppose the current government as an attempt to bypass Parliament as well as the country’s constitution.
Luboš Pašek, a long-term business partner of controversial Czech lobbyist Roman Janoušek, has claimed that some of the gold seized at a Prague bank in June by the country’s anti-crime unit is his. Police seized millions of crowns in gold bullion as part of an extensive raid that exposed a spying and corruption scandal that led to the fall of the previous government. Along with the seizure, Mr Pašek’s office and home were also searched. The businessman has filed charges against the state. According to his lawyer Prokop Beneš, the seizure was unlawful; he claims his client bought the investment gold from a certified seller and that the transaction and source of the funds were transparent; he added that the account was in his clients’ name. The lawsuit will go ahead if the police do not return the gold within six months, according to news site iDnes.
The Office of the Government on Friday released records of the salaries of its civil servants and top officials beginning in 2010, reversing a previous decision for them to remain private. Interest in the salaries was heightened by a corruption and spying scandal which led to the fall of the previous administration. According to the information released, the former head of the office, Lubomír Poul earned 1.17 million crowns a year plus bonuses, while Jana Nagyová, the former chief-of-staff charged in the scandal who was romantically linked to ex-prime minister Petr Nečas, earned almost one million crowns from 2011-2012 plus an additional two million in bonuses over two years. Critics charge that the height of the salaries was inappropriate for a cabinet that billed austerity as its main focus.
The regions of Ústí and Karlovy Vary will pay a total of 906 million crowns to the EU instead of 2.1 billion originally demanded for mistakes made in the North-West Regional Operational Programme, the Finance Ministry said on Friday. The ministry has also offered the regions interest-free financial assistance, CTK reported. The agreement could unblock a further amount of money for projects from the suspended programme. The payment should immediately unblock 5.5 billion crowns from EU funds, the Czech News Agency said, citing an earlier statement by Finance Minister Jan Fischer. EU funding has been suspended for over a year.
Czech actor Miroslav Donutil has said he is quitting the National Theatre, citing – as the “last straw” – a botched attempt by the current interim government to sack its director Jan Burián. Mr Donutil told Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes the move by the Culture Minister Jiří Balvín to remove the theatre head was the height of amateurism. Mr Donutil, who has starred in numerous stage productions as well as countless films including Dědictví, Pevnost and Pelíšky, was a member of the National Theatre for 23 years. He cited his long-term involvement with the theatre as well as fatigue as additional reasons for leaving.
The Czech Republic saw record temperatures registered by numerous meteorological stations on Friday as a heat wave similar to that which hit the country last weekend set in. two areas in the Plzeň region registered 36.4 degrees Celsius on Friday; according to meteorologists this July was the sixth hottest in the country in 80 years. As a result, last month was also one of the driest, leading to fire warnings in places. Originally, advance predictions for July were considerably more conservative, suggesting that the last week in the month, for example, would average only around 25 degrees.
Human rights groups Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Centre have asked the Czech authorities to protect the country’s Romany community from violence and intimidation. The call comes ahead of a series of anti-Romany rallies planned in 13 Czech towns by far right extremists in the coming weeks. The groups say the government must ensure that these protests do not lead to violence against Roma communities, and that those at risk get the protection they need. The Czech Republic has seen rising ethnic tensions between the majority population and the 300,000 or so strong Romany community. The Czech secret services recently warned mainstream anti-Romany sentiments could become a bigger threat than far right extremism.
The International Monetary Fund on Friday cut its forecast for the performance of the Czech economy in 2013 to an 0.4 percent contraction, from a previous estimate of 0.3 percent growth. The IMF said despite its healthy fundaments, the Czech economy was in the middle of a long recession caused by the Eurozone crisis and weakened domestic demand. The worsened outlook corresponds to the latest estimate by the Czech central bank which predicts a 1.5 percent contraction this year. For 2014, the IMF forecasts a growth of 1.5 percent.
The caretaker Czech government on Friday approved its policy programme. Its main priorities include drawing on EU funds as well as efforts to revive the depressed economy and reduce unemployment. The cabinet also plans to increase the number of police officers and hire more staff for labour offices. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said his cabinet would work to renew people’s trust in public and state institutions. The interim government, appointed earlier this month without consent from political parties, is scheduled to seek the approval of the lower house on Wednesday.
In related news, the centre-right former coalition party TOP 09 will not support the interim government of Jiří Rusnok in next week’s vote of confidence, the group’s vice-chairman Miroslav Kalousek said in a statement on Friday. Mr Kalousek said the way the government was appointed destabilised and threatened the country’s political system. President Zeman appointed the government following the fall of the Nečas cabinet. However, the president did so without consulting parties in the lower house, and despite the former coalition’s assurances they still had a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Other parties, including the Social Democrats and the Communists, said they would announce their decision on whether they will support the government next week.