The ANO party of food magnate Andrej Babiš and the Christian Democrats say they are ready to hold coalition talks with the embattled leader of the Social Democrats Bohuslav Sobotka, whose party won the elections by a small margin. This is seen as a significant show of support for Mr. Sobotka whose position at the head of the party has been challenged by party rivals close to President Miloš Zeman. Following a vote by the party’s executive leadership Mr. Sobotka was dropped from the party’s negotiating team on Sunday, but he has refused to be sidelined from the talks saying he has the mandate to represent the party and would lead parallel negotiations if necessary.
Social Democratic Party deputies have elected Jeronym Tejc head of the party’s deputies’ group in the lower house. Mr. Tejc was elected by 30 out of 50 votes. The newly elected group leader is perceived as a member of the party’s pro-Zeman faction and a critic of party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. Tuesday’s vote was seen as a test of the balance of power within the divided party. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats negotiating team, which crumbled under pressure on Tuesday is to be elected anew on Thursday at a meeting of the party leadership. Deputy Michal Hasek, Sobotka’s main party rival, has said he would like to head the team.
The centre-right TOP 09, which is going into the opposition after receiving less than 12 percent of the vote in early general elections, has called on the winning parties to lose no time in setting up a government. The party’s deputy chair Miroslav Kalousek expressed shock over the power struggle that broke out in the Social Democratic Party less than 24 hours after its election win, saying that the party should get its act together and accept responsibility for running the country.
Experts cited by the CTK news agency agree that a coalition between the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and ANO would not bring about significant economic changes. They consider such a coalition as the only viable option and note that the direct or indirect participation of ANO in government would effectively prevent the Social Democrats from raising taxes. The three parties would also most likely commit to keeping the deficit in public finances below 3 percent of GDP, experts told the CTK news agency.
The Citizens’ Rights Party –Zemanites is meeting to debate the reasons behind its election debacle. The party, which ahead of the elections hovered close to the 5 percent support margin needed to win seats in the lower house, got a mere 1.5 percent of the vote. Its chair Zdenek Štengl, said ahead of the talks he was not ready to throw in the towel but noted that he had registered calls for his resignation from some party members. President Miloš Zeman, who openly supported the party, said it had relied too much on his popularity and done too little on its own to win over left-wing voters.
British police are reported to have detained eight EU nationals, among them 6 Czechs in a crackdown on a sham wedding ring, according to Express and Star. The group is believed to have been active in the West Midlands, arranging sham marriages for Czech and Slovak women and Indian men with members of the local community, bypassing asylum laws and enabling them to settle in the UK. According to Express and Star the sham marriages were arranged for the price of 10 thousand pounds.
Former Prague mayor Pavel Bém on Tuesday testified before a city court dealing with the case of the multi-purpose Opencard project that provides access to public services. Mr. Bém rejected the claim that the project had been severely overpriced, a conclusion reached by independent auditors. Five of his former subordinates have been charged with abuse of office and violating public procurement rules in connection with the case. Prosecution argues that the contracts signed were highly disadvantageous for Prague and squandered tens of millions of crowns form public funds.
The Czech Republic has dropped by seven places to rank 75th out of 189 countries on the World Bank’s index on the ease of doing business, released on Monday. The report ranks countries according to 10 areas including business regulation, tax collection and obstacles for start-up firms. The report says that over the past year, the Czech Republic has progressed in two of the areas – trading across borders and resolving insolvency. However, its ranking dropped for seven areas including starting a business and property registration.
A maintenance train stopped traffic along the main rail corridor from Bohemia to Moravia on Tuesday morning after going through a red light. The security system automatically blocked all traffic in both directions. A spokesman for Czech Railways said there had been no danger to passengers and the incident was being investigated. The hour long-delay has affected Eurocity, intercity and local connections.
President Zeman awarded state decorations to 29 personalities on the occasion of Czechoslovak Independence Day on Monday night. The philosopher Erazim Kohák and playwright, actor and songwriter Jiří Suchý received the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Mararyk; the Medal of Merit, meanwhile, was awarded to opera singer Soňa Červená, communist-era businessman František Čuba, actress Jiřina Bohdalová, former athlete Jarmila Kratochvílová, and others. Several of the recipients supported Mr Zeman in his presidential bid, or ran on the ballot of his party in the weekend’s elections. The awards ceremony was marked by controversy as several dozen officials, including most university rectors, boycotted the event over their disagreement with some of the president’s recent decisions.