In related news, members of a Civic Democratic branch in Brno backed former education minister Petr Fiala for party leader. All 156 delegates of the Brno-střed branch voted in favour. Mr Fiala is the former rector of Masaryk University and served as an unaffiliated member in the centre-right government of Petr Nečas. Mr Fiala ran the party’s south Moravian branch ahead of the recent national election. The Civic Democrats posted their worst-ever result (getting just 7.72 percent of votes) but Fiala received strong backing in terms of preferential votes (his name on the ballot was circled by more than 11,000 voters).
The Czech power giant ČEZ will be allowed to keep its license to operate in Bulgaria, after the country’s energy regulator confirmed there was no reason to revoke it. Earlier this year, Bulgarian authorities launched an investigation into whether ČEZ was unfairly increasing electricity prices to its customers in response to widespread public protests that triggered the fall of the centre-right government. ČEZ rejected claims of irregular practices and said that if its license was revoked it would take the matter to a European court of law.
Former president Václav Klaus has written that he considers negative screening results a matter of course for ministers in government, stressing that all candidates he named as head-of-state fulfilled the necessary requirements. Screening legislation was introduced in the 1990s to prevent persons who worked as agents for the former Communist secret police from holding high office. The law is also supported by the current president, Miloš Zeman. Andrej Babiš, the head of ANO 2011, could face difficulty in joining the new government given he was listed in Slovakia as having ties to the StB – a matter the billionaire businessman has challenged in court. Mr Babiš has denied he ever collaborated with the StB.
A new poll released by ppm factum suggests that 57 percent of those who backed the Social Democrats in the recent election were critical of steps taken by the party since. The party suffered discord a mere day after the election when a wing informally headed by Michal Hašek called on the party’s chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka, to step down. Mr Sobotka later consolidated his position. If Czechs voted today, the new poll suggests, ANO 2011 would come first with 20 percent of the vote and the Social Democrats second, with 19.5. In the recent election, ANO got 18.7 and the Social Democrats narrowly won with 20.5 percent.
A Czech court has ordered the national forestry company Lesy ČR to stop logging trees in state-owned forests near Tábor – property slated to be returned to church organisations under the Church restitution bill. The company was operating in the area to clear damage from storms, a representative made clear. The bishopric in České Budějovice had petitioned the court to freeze all activity until restitution had been fully resolved. Two of the three parties negotiating on a new government have taken issue with Church restitution, or parts of the bill, considering the current state of the Czech economy.
Prague’s Municipal Court on Friday sentenced two 19-year-old Icelandic nationals to 7.5 years prison for smuggling cocaine. The young women were caught at Prague’s Václav Havel airport on November 7th last year smuggling 3.5 kilograms between them. The decision is not final: the defendants can still appeal. The prosecution had called for sentences of up to 18 years in prison, as the duo allegedly acted as couriers for an organised crime gang.
This year’s Davis Cup final has begun, between defending champion the Czech Republic and Serbia. Veteran Czech tennis player Radek Štepánek, who sealed the deal in 2012 by defeating Spain’s Nicolas Amalgro, is on court against World No. 2 Novak Djokovic. The second singles match on Friday will see World No. 7 Tomáš Berdych take on Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic (replacing Janko Tipsarovic who is out with an injury). This year’s Davis Cup Final is the 101st.
The Czech national football team faces Canada in a friendly on Friday afternoon – ten years to the day the two squads last met. The match is the Czech team’s last of the season. The last time the Czech Republic and Canada met, the Czechs won 5:1. The match is expected to be the last for interim manager Josef Pešice who took over from Michal Bílek after the Czechs failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Under Pešice, the squad won the final two qualification matches against Malta and Bulgaria.
Canada has announced its decision to lift visas for Czech nationals as of
November 14. The Canadian ambassador to Prague, Otto Jelínek, made the
announcement at a press briefing on Thursday saying the move had been
linked to the introduction of a stricter asylum law in Canada. Visa-free
travel will be possible for a period of up to six months.
Ottawa reimposed visas on Czechs in 2009 following a wave of Czech asylum seekers. It had come under increasing pressure from Prague to remove the travel restriction, with Czech officials linking the issue to the country’s approval of a key trade agreement between Canada and the EU.
President Miloš Zeman has requested a meeting with Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka on November 21st, the president’s spokeswoman Hana Buriánová told the ctk news agency on Thursday. The president is expected to officially task the Social Democrat leader with forming a new government. Mr. Sobotka said after his first meeting with the head of state on Wednesday that the president had clearly indicated he meant to entrust him with the task. As the head of the strongest party to come out of the elections, Mr. Sobotka is the natural candidate to lead the talks, although he has had to fight off a rebellion from party members who blame him for the Social Democrats' lackluster victory.