All three Christian Democrat ministers have handed in their
resignations. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, Transport Minister Milan
Simonovsky and Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek are leaving the
cabinet after Wednesday's decision by the Christian Democrats' national
conference to quit the governing coalition due to a row over Prime
Minister Gross's family finances. President Vaclav Klaus has said he
will wait for the results of Friday's no-confidence vote before he
decides whether he will accept the resignations.
Prime Minister Gross has already chosen candidates for the three ministerial posts. They are Social Democrat MP Radko Martinek for the post of Environment Minister, the head of the Czech delegation to the EU Jan Kohout for the post of Foreign Minister and the director of the Transportation Fund Pavel Svagr for the post of Transport Minister.
The Czech Republic's footballers have beaten Andorra 4:0 away in a qualifying game for next year's World Cup in Germany. Milan Baros and Vratislav Lokvenc scored from open play, while Marek Jankulovski and Tomas Rosicky both converted penalties in Wednesday's game. The Czechs are one point behind leaders Holland in their World Cup qualifying group.
The chairman of the Communist Party Miroslav Grebenicek has said the
party's executive committee has recommended to Communist deputies to
abstain in Friday morning's no-confidence vote in the government of Prime
Minister Stanislav Gross. If all Communist MPs follow the recommendation,
the opposition will fall far short of the 101-vote majority needed to
topple the government of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross.
Mr Gross lost his parliamentary majority on Wednesday when the Christian Democratic Party dropped its support for his coalition government after the prime minister ignored calls to quit. Mr Gross's coalition government of his Social Democrats and the Freedom Union is now down to 80 seats in the 200-member lower house of parliament. The Communists, who have had a low profile since the end of their rule in 1989, have become the country's powerbrokers as they will decide on Friday if Stanislav Gross's government survives the no-confidence vote.
The creation of a minority government after the Christian Democrats' departure from the coalition would be the worst possible solution to the current political crisis, economic analysts have told the CTK news agency. According to CTK they are afraid that a government with only minority support in Parliament would be unable to push through crucial economic reforms. They see the government's fall and early elections, or the forming of a majority cabinet as the best solutions.
A member of the Qatar royal family has been charged in the Czech Republic with abusing underage girls, the CTK news agency has reported. Prosecutors are also investigating young women alleged to have acted as intermediaries for the man, Hamid Sani, by recruiting under-age girls on the streets. According to police, Mr Sani abused girls who had been delivered to him in his Prague flat by three young women. Detectives discovered that up to 10 girls a day took turns in Mr Sani's flat. Mr Sani, along with the three alleged procurers, faces charges of sexual abuse, corrupting morals and procuring. Hamid Sani, who has been in custody pending investigations since September, has lived in the Czech Republic for more than 10 years, running a private business.
The embattled Czech Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, will face a
parliamentary vote of no-confidence on Friday. The announcement comes as
the leadership of the Christian Democratic Party, a junior partner in Mr
Gross' ruling coalition, said on Wednesday it would leave the government
if he continues as premier; party leader Miroslav Kalousek said all
Christian Democrat ministers (foreign affairs, transport, environment)
will resign on Thursday.
Separately, the head of the opposition Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek, who earlier this week had said he would urge his colleagues to support the no-confidence motion, said after a two-hour meeting on Wednesday with Mr Gross that his deputies might not vote against him after all. Mr Grebenicek said that the policies of the centre-right Civic Democrats, the main opposition party, which had called for the vote, were more of a concern to the Communists than were the past mistakes of the current government.
The no-confidence vote stems from calls for Prime Minister Gross to step down over alleged discrepancies in his personal finances, including his purchase of a luxury apartment in Prague six years ago, as well as his wife Sarka Grossova's business activities.
A reactor at the Temelin nuclear power station in the southern part of the Czech Republic was shut down on Wednesday due to a fault in a power turbine, and is expected to remain offline for about two weeks. A reactor was last shut down at the plant, which lies about 50 kilometres from the Austrian border, on Sunday evening, and was restarted on Monday morning. Czech officials said the most recent fault at Temelin was not located in a part of the plant close to nuclear fuel and said that the second reactor at Temelin was functioning normally.
In related news, the Cabinet is expected to decide on how to continue with the privatisation of Cesky Telecom — that is by tender or through a flotation of shares — following the results of the no-confidence vote in prime minister Stanislav Gross on Friday. The government's privatisation commission was meeting on Wednesday to discuss bids, which include telecommunication companies Swisscom, Belgacom, Spain's Telefonica and a grouping of Blackstone, CVC, Provident partnered with France Telecom. Media reports suggest binding bids went as high as 73 billion crowns (over $3 billion).
In other news, the lower house of Parliament has passed an amendment to the law on road transport, introducing stricter conditions on taxi drivers, including an officially sealed taximeter that issues printed receipts, and an internal memory chip storing the previous month's fare data. The amendment was drafted by the Prague City Hall, which is attempting to crack down on the overcharging of passengers, in particular tourists.