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.
Social Democrat chairman Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday condemned an attempted “putsch” in his party by several high-ranking Social Democrat officials. In a statement for the press, Mr Sobotka said his party was facing an “unprecedented attack” aimed at changing the balance of power. The Social Democrats finished first in the weekend’s general election but failed to secure sufficient strength to form a left-wing government. On Sunday, several members of the party’s leadership, backed by President Zeman, called on Mr Sobotka to step down, which he refused. Mr Sobotka has also criticized the president for interfering with the party’s internal affairs.
Some 400 people gathered at the Prague Castle are on Monday afternoon in support of the embattled Social Democrat chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka. Some of the participants hoisted banners criticizing Mr Sobotka’s party rival, Michal Hašek, and his allies including President Miloš Zeman. Bohuslav Sobotka attended the rally in person, and told his supporters he was ready to lead coalition talks on behalf of his party despite the fact he had been excluded from the negotiating team by his party opponents.
President Miloš Zeman suggested the leader of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, should resign following the party’s unconvincing win in the Czech general elections last weekend, the president told the weekly Týden. Mr Zeman said that as chairman, Mr Sobotka was responsible for the party’s poorest showing in all post-1989 elections. Mr Zeman reportedly spoke to the publication ahead of Sunday’s meeting of Social Democrat leadership which called on Bohuslav Sobotka to step down as party leader, and excluded him their negotiating team tasked with coalition talks. Mr Sobotka said he had no intention to quit, and warned of the president’s growing influence within the party.
Leaders of the ANO and the Christian Democrat parties said on Monday they would postpone talks about forming a coalition government with the Social Democrats until the crisis in that party is resolved. A coalition of Social Democrats, ANO and Christian Democrats has emerged as the most likely outcome of the weekend’s general elections. Christian Democrat chairman Pavel Bělobrádek said he would meet with leaders of both fractions within the Social Democrat party, Bohuslav Sobotka and Michal Hašek, to discuss the situation while ANO leader, Andrej Babiš, said his party was monitoring the situation, and would discuss a course of action at their MPs’ meeting on Wednesday.
Monday, October 28, marks the 95th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia, with commemorative events held across the country. In Prague, the main event takes place at the Vítkov national memorial, with attendance by top Czech officials including President Miloš Zeman. On Monday evening, President Zeman is set hand out state decorating at a ceremony at Prague Castle. This year, the event has been marked by several controversies; over 20 Czech university rectors have refused to attend in solidarity with two of their colleagues who had not been invited over disputes with the president.
In related news, the rock singer and songwriter Vladimír Mišík has rejected a state decoration over his growing discontent with recent decisions by President Miloš Zeman.. In a press release, the 66-year-old artist said he informed the president’s office of his decision. Vladimír Mišík, whose rose to popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1960s and has put out 13 albums, is one of the most respected Czech rock musicians.
Former Soviet-era Russian dissident Natalya Gorbanyevska on Monday paid homage to the late Czech president Václav Havel when she laid flowers on his grave. Ms Gorbanyevska said Václav Havel was still very popular in Russia, as someone who never betrayed his moral principles. The former Soviet dissident, who lives in France, is on a visit to the Czech Republic where she received a decoration from Prague’s Charles University and is set to meet with President Zeman on Tuesday.
The 18th annual German-language theatre festival begins in Prague on Monday. The festival brings ten plays and projects by German, Austrian and Swiss ensembles to the Czech capital; the festival kick offs with the performance entitled Oedipus – The City, by the Deutches Theater Berlin, at the Vinohrady theatre on Monday evening. The event continues until November 10.