The Civic Democrats elected Petr Fiala party chairman at a congress in the eastern city of Olomouc on Saturday. The post had been occupied in a caretaker capacity by Martin Kuba following the resignation of former prime minister Petr Nečas in the wake of a scandal that brought down the last elected government. A political scientist, Mr. Fiala only joined the Civic Democrats in November but was previously the party’s appointment as education minister.
Petr Fiala told delegates at the Civic Democrats conference that he regarded his election as a huge commitment. He said a lot of work lay ahead for the party, which dominated the Czech right for the best part of two decades but only received 7.7 percent of the vote in general elections in October. Mr. Fiala said the revival of the Civic Democrats had begun on Saturday and that it would see a “new culture”.
MEP Jan Zahradil was elected first deputy chairperson of the Civic Democrats at the party congress in Olomouc on Saturday. Mr. Zahradil, a prominent member of the party since the 1990s, received 294 votes, compared to 193 for his rival Jiří Pospíšil. He chairs the European Conservatives and Reformists group at the European Parliament but said on Saturday he would not stand for reelection as an MEP in view of his new position.
Outgoing caretaker chairman Martin Kuba had earlier told the Civic Democrats congress that a number of factors had contributed to the party’s poor performance in the general elections. Mr. Kuba blamed the failure on a controversial January 2013 amnesty by then president Václav Klaus that was signed off on by then prime minister Petr Nečas, as well as on a scandal last summer in which Mr. Nečas’s chief aide and future wife Jana Nagyová was charged in connection with alleged corruption and spying. These factors made it impossible to save the party in the run-up to the elections, Mr. Kuba said.
The newly appointed prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, says his party the Social Democrats have not succeeded in “naturally” getting women into high party positions. His comments came after the Social Democrats announced on Friday that Michaela Marksová Tominová was their choice for minister of labour of social affairs in the emerging government. She replaced a male candidate who withdrew and is the party’s only female cabinet nominee. Mr. Sobotka said the only way to increase the number of women in senior posts would be to move away from a “functionary-style structure” and introduce an open selection process.
Patrik Kunčar of the Christian Democrats has won a Senate by-election in the Zlín constituency in southern Moravia. Mr. Kunčar, the mayor of Uherský Brod, beat Libor Lukáš of the Civic Democrats in a second-round runoff that saw turnout of 16 percent. The seat in the Senate became vacant when Tomio Okamura of Dawn gave it up to take up a seat in the Chamber of Deputies.
The Plastic People of the Universe performed a concert in Prague on Friday night in honour of late member Milan “Mejla” Hlavsa, a singer, bassist and group co-founder who would have turned 63 recently. The one-time underground band, some of whose members were imprisoned during the Communist era, play tribute shows to Hlavsa at this time every year. He died in 2001 at the age of 50.
President Miloš Zeman on Friday appointed Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats prime minister. The move came 83 days after October’s elections to the lower house, the longest gap between a vote and the appointment of a prime minister since the foundation of the Czech Republic. The country now has two prime ministers, with an interim cabinet installed by Mr. Zeman and headed by Jiří Rusnok set to continue running the country until an elected government is appointed.
During Friday’s naming ceremony at Prague Castle, President Zeman wished Mr. Sobotka success in forming a “professional team based on expert knowledge and life experience”. Mr. Zeman is set to hold individual meetings with the prime minister designate’s ministerial candidates in the coming weeks and has said he could name a new government by the end of the month. However, he has raised questions over the suitability of a number of cabinet nominees.
Speaking shortly after Friday’s appointment ceremony, Mr. Sobotka said his first foreign trip as prime minister would be to the neighbouring state of Slovakia. Since the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, Czech leaders have traditionally made Slovakia their first port of call as regards international visits.