The only viable coalition is that of the Social Democrats, ANO and Christian Democrats, according to Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka. Speaking after a meeting with President Zeman on Thursday, Mr Sobotka told reporters an ongoing dispute with the Christian Democrats over which party will take over the Agriculture Ministry would not impede talks among the three parties on forming the next government.
In related news, the Christian Democrats are ready to continue in coalition talks with the Social Democrat and ANO parties even if the broader Christian Democrat leadership rejects the latest proposal on distribution of ministerial posts, party leader Pavel Bělobrádek said on Thursday. The Christian Democrats have been offered the portfolios of labour and social affairs, environment and transport. However, the party said earlier it would not join the next government without taking over the Ministry of Agriculture. The Christian Democrat leadership is set to discuss the proposal later on Thursday.
The lower house of Czech Parliament on Thursday approved the state budget for next year. The budget projects a deficit of 112 billion crowns, 12 billion more than this year. The deficit is not expected to exceed 3 percent of the country’s GDP. The budget, put forth by the outgoing interim Czech government, was backed by 109 MPs of the emerging coalition while centre-right Civic Democrats and TOP 09 deputies voted against. MPs of the Communist and Dawn parties abstained from the vote. The budget bill is now to be signed into law by the president.
A new poll by the STEM agency suggests that the ANO party would win a general election with 22.4 percent of the vote, 2.5 percent ahead of the Social Democrats. The Communists would come in third with 17 percent of the vote, followed by the conservative TOP 09 party, Dawn, the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democrats. The survey suggests that the ANO, Communist and Dawn parties would now receive more votes than they did in October’s general election.
The Czech president’s chief of staff, Vratislav Mynář, applied for security clearance with the National Security Authority on Thursday, nine months after assuming his post. Mr Mynář applied for the top secret level clearance. President Zeman said earlier his chief of staff would have to leave his post if he fails to apply. Mr Mynář explained that it had taken him so long to apply because he needed to collect hundreds of documents relating to 20 years of his professional and personal life.
The Czech anti-monopoly authority has prohibited labour offices from using their IT system for welfare payments, a spokesman for the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry said. The ban came into effect on Wednesday. The anti-monopoly authority imposed the ban due to the fact the system, which was introduced last January, was chosen without an open tender. The ban will not affect welfare payments for December which have already been sent, a spokeswoman for the labour office said. Former labour and social affairs deputy minister, Vladimír Šiška, is being prosecuted on corruption charges in the case.
Businessman Daniel Křetínský is set to take over the Ringier Axel Springer CZ group, which publishes the Czech Republic’s best-selling tabloid Blesk and other titles, iDnes.cz reported. The deal should be done in the next week, the news website said. Mr. Křetínský is co-owner and head of Energetický a průmyslový holding, in which the PPF group is also a major shareholder. He is reported to be planning to buy the media group, which also issues the daily Sport and the weekly Reflex, in cooperation with other investors, including Patrik Tkáč, who is also involved in Energetický a průmyslový holding.
Czech MPs have voted to lift the parliamentary immunity of deputy Bronislav Schwarz of ANO to allow the police to investigate him on criminal charges. He faces abuse of power accusations in connection with an incident in 2006 when, as a local police chief, he ordered that suspects be cuffed during an unauthorised raid of a flat where drug making equipment was found. Mr. Schwarz was elected to the Chamber of Deputies at the end of October but denies standing in the hope of securing immunity.
The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Olomouc has claimed the Baroque chateau in the nearby town of Kroměříž, a spokesman for the archdiocese said on Thursday. The chateau, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, served as a seat of the Olomouc bishops and archbishops until 1948 when it was confiscated by the communist authorities. The Archbishop of Olomouc, Jan Graubner, said if the chateau is returned to the church, it would remain open to the public. The claim comes as part of a controversial church property restitution deal; Czech churches and religious societies have until the end of the year to claim property confiscated by Czechoslovakia’s communist regime.
Four people died in a road crash that occurred near the town of Kroměříž on Thursday afternoon. The accident happened when a car swerved into the opposite lane where it hit another vehicle. Three people died on the spot, the fourth victim succumbed to her injuries after she was taken to hospital. The cause of the accident is under investigation.