Former Prague mayor Pavel Bém says he does not intend to resign as a Member of Parliament over the current lobbying scandal in which he is involved. In a statement made for the daily Hospodářské noviny, Mr Bém said that he would take personal responsibility and resign if necessary if and when it was proven that he had broken the law. He also said that the taped conversations of himself and lobbyist Roman Janoušek, which suggest the latter had significant influence over city governance, were made illegally and constituted an unbelievable infringement on his privacy. Police are investigating the recordings, which are being published by the daily Mladá fronta Dnes. Mladá fronta claims they were made by the Czech intelligence agency BIS in 2007 and acquired by the detective agency ABL some two years later. That possible leak is the subject of a separate investigation.
The board of Civic Democrats at Prague City Hall has recommended that former mayor Pavel Bém suspend his membership in the party. Speaking after a meeting of the board, current Prague mayor and chairman of the party’s Prague branch Bohuslav Svoboda announced the position to reporters and said he wanted to speak with party chairman and Prime Minister Petr Nečas about the affair. Mr Bém did not attend the meeting as he is currently in Tbilisi, Georgia. The case will also be discussed at a national meeting of the Civic Democratic Party.
Police President Petr Lessy has called the police response in arresting Roman Janoušek highly irregular and said mistakes were made. Based on a preliminary internal investigation he said he could not exclude the possibility that the officers involved may have been influenced in some way and said the matter would be turned over to the appropriate inspectorate. Mr Janoušek, a wealthy lobbyist, is believed to have intentionally run down a woman in his car while intoxicated, not long after damaging evidence of his connections to Prague City Hall emerged. Despite running away from the scene of the crime he was not handcuffed and was allowed to make telephone calls. He also avoided being taken to a drunk tank in spite of a high blood/alcohol level and was reportedly allowed to leave the police station a few hours later through a back door to avoid the media. The victim of the attack is in serious but stable condition in hospital.
President Václav Klaus made his first remarks on the Bém-Janoušek affair on Monday, saying only that wiretapping destroyed democracy. Mr Klaus said that he would not comment on the relationship between the lobbyist and former Prague mayor and that he had not and would not read the transcripts. The only thing that troubled him, he said, was the circulation of private conversations procured through wiretapping, which he said should be equally troubling to the media. Pavel Bém is regarded as a close ally and protégé of the president.
The European Roma Rights Centre has criticised across-the-board testing of fifth and ninth graders in the Czech Republic, saying that the plan could worsen the segregation of Roma schoolchildren. The testing plan, promoted by outgoing Education Minister Josef Dobeš, is meant to be used to rank schools and thereby establish the funding they receive. According to the centre, that would encourage many schools to move weaker students to so-called “special schools”. The ERRC has long criticised the Czech Republic for the inordinate presence of Roma in such schools, which are intended for children with learning disabilities. The plan is meant to take effect in 2014.
Recently retied Constitutional Court judge Eliška Wagnerová has announced she will be a candidate for the Green Party in Brno in Senate elections. Ms Wagnerová left the court last week and said that she had hoped there would be more time for the decision, but had been convinced that the time was right. Green Party chairman Ondřej Liška praised Ms Wagnerová as the embodiment of constitutionality and the quality of Czech law, and said there was no better place for her to apply her experience. Regarding her replacement on the bench, Ms Wagnerová said the candidate should see the position as the apex of their career.
Some 85% of citizens consider the falling birth rate in the Czech Republic a serious problem for society, according to an internet poll conducted by SANEP. The same number of respondents was of the opinion that Czech government policy does not sufficiently support families with children. Family was deemed the most important part of a healthy and functioning society by 95% of those polled. A total of 90% of respondents say the state should do more to solve the problems that cause the decreasing birth rate. About a third said the falling birth rate was due to the poor financial situation among young families, while 24 percent blamed insufficient state support to families with small children and 16% blamed careerism. According to the Czech Statistical Office, the number of newborn babies in the Czech Republic declined sharply in 2011.
A poll conducted by the CVVM agency suggests that municipal boards and the presidency remain the most trusted political institutions in the country. Confidence in local government remained at around 59% while trust in the presidency slipped by fourteen points to 53% compared with last year. The least trusted institution was Parliament, according to the poll, with 17%. Nearly three out of four respondents said they were dissatisfied with the current political situation.
As of April 1, when new legislation comes into effect, blind or visually-impaired patients will be allowed to bring seeing-eye dogs along when going into the hospital, reports the Czech daily idnes. According to the news site, while facilities are readying for the change, they stress that patients will have to have someone close by who they can call to care for the animal. The spokeswoman for Motol Hospital Pavlína Danková, for example, told the daily that while the hospital would respect the law, it was essential not to break any others, for example, regarding hygiene. Other facilities, such as the hospital in Mělník, suggested that personnel, if necessary, could walk the highly-trained dogs.
The executive council of the junior coalition party Public Affairs is to meet on Tuesday morning to select a candidate to replace Josef Dobeš at the head of the Ministry of Education. The selection will then be discussed by the party’s parliamentary club. Party chairman Radek John said Monday that a decision would probably not be made on Tuesday and added that the ministry would need a “crisis manager”. Josef Dobeš announced his resignation last week citing his disagreement with proposed cuts. His tenure however has been dogged by numerous controversies.