The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says he will not appoint a new prime minister until he recovers from a knee problem. The head of state has been laid up since a fall two weeks ago and is expected to be back on his feet at the start of next month at the earliest. In a radio interview, he said making Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister was a matter of dignity that he could not conduct from a wheelchair. Mr. Sobotka’s Social Democrats came first in elections last month and he is holding talks with ANO and the Christian Democrats on forming a coalition. Mr. Zeman said he may charge him with forming a government next week, not on Wednesday when they are set to hold talks for the first time since the elections.
The president has cancelled all foreign trips planned for the remainder of this year due to his knee injury, an official at Prague Castle announced on Tuesday. A trip to Serbia and Romania had already been called off, while the latest announcement means the head of state will not now make a visit to Czech troops stationed in Afghanistan. A scheduled visit to Prague by the president of Singapore has also been postponed.
A group representing the disabled has demanded an apology from President Zeman after he said appointing a prime minister was a matter of dignity that could not be conducted from a wheelchair. The National Council of the Handicapped issued a statement on Tuesday describing the president’s comment as inappropriate given his position and insulting to the disabled.
Representatives of the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats are due to hold their first talks on the formation of a governing coalition in Prague on Tuesday evening. The latter party, who have 14 seats in the lower house, are likely to balk at the Social Democrats’ plans to roll back on a gigantic church restitution deal agreed by the last, centre right government. The Social Democrats have already held initial coalition negotiations with ANO, which came second in the elections.
The Communist Party say they will put forward legislation in the Chamber of Deputies allowing for a referendum on church restitution. The state has begun returning nationalised property worth CZK 75 billion to various churches, along with CZK 59 billion in compensation for unreturned assets. However, the issue has been highly divisive and the Communists say the restitution deal is disadvantageous to the state. Leader Vojtěch Filip says the party will seek support for a referendum from the Social Democrats, ANO and Dawn.
The PPF investment group has bought a majority stake in the O2 Arena, a multi-functional structure in Prague that hosts ice hockey games and cultural events, the news website Aktuálně.cz reported. PPF is owned by Petr Kellner, the country’s richest person. PPF was recently in the news in connection with its takeover of the mobile operator Telefonica Czech Republic.
The late fine for using Prague’s public transport system without a ticket is set to increase in January from CZK 1,000 to 1,500, City Hall officials decided on Tuesday. However, if offenders pay inspectors on the spot, or at the headquarters of the transport authority within 15 days, the current fine of CZK 800 will still apply.
A new exhibition in Prague highlights underground samizdat literature produced under the Communist system in Czechoslovakia. The show, which is at the Lucerna Passage in the city centre, is entitled Samizdat and Dispatch Series, with the second term referring to a series of publications set up by then dissident and playwright Václav Havel and his friends in 1975. The exhibition features period documents and photographs.
Vladimír Šafařík has been chosen to stand in for Jaroslav Navrátil as non-playing captain of the Czech team for next weekend’s Davis Cup tennis finals against Serbia in Belgrade. Mr. Navrátil has been ruled out because of illness and has described his replacement as the right person to take over. Mr. Šafařík captained the country’s Fed Cup team in 1992 and is director of the company that organises the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup ties. The Czechs are defending champions in the competition after an historic win in Prague last December.
Former senior Social Democrat MP and Central Bohemian governor David Rath was released from police custody on Monday, 18 months after he was arrested on corruption charges. Mr Rath’s release was ordered by Prague’s High Court which upheld his complaint against being held in custody; the court said the risk of Mr Rath avoiding trial was no longer an issue. David Rath, a former health minister and governor of Central Bohemia, was arrested in May 2012, along with several other people, over alleged corruption in several public procurement projects. The trial began in August; if convicted, David Rath faces 12 years in prison.
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