Outgoing education minister Josef Dobeš has tendered his resignation to President Václav Klaus. The two met privately at Prague Castle on Friday morning. Mr Klaus was a supporter of the embattled minister, in the past calling him “the best education minister the country had had since the fall of communism”. However, Mr Dobeš came under fire for mishandled education reforms and the mismanagement of EU funds, as well as a highly-controversial decision to extend accreditation at the troubled law school in Plzeň. While he said his official reason for resigning was 2.5 billion crowns in planned cuts to his ministry’s budget (which he warned would negatively impact teachers’ salaries) many believe the step was a last attempt to save face rather than be dismissed by the prime minister. A successor has not been named yet.
In related news, students held a happening in front of the Education Ministry in Prague on Friday celebrating Mr Dobeš’ resignation; activists are primarily opposed to his reforms in higher education – which include plans for the introduction of tuition fees and other changes. In the happening, students released a picture of Mr Dobeš tied to helium-filled balloons. Organisers have made clear they will continue to protest the governments’ reforms which they argue are a threat to academic freedoms.
The latest edition of The Economist has taken note of the
"lobbying" scandal in Prague and its possible implications for
the ruling Civic Democrats. In a short article this week, the daily gives a
run-down of the main points of the affair, including how secret wiretaps
recorded in 2007 revealed apparently highly-inappropriate conversations
between ex-Prague Mayor Pavel Bém and powerful lobbyist Roman Janoušek.
The scandal broke in Prague last week after bits from the tape were
transcribed and published by the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes. Discussed
in the tapes were sales of city and state property as well as office
appointments, suggesting the measure of influence Mr Janoušek had during
Mr Bém’s mayoral term.
The Economist also notes the use of the expletives, bizarre coded language, and nicknames by the former mayor and lobbyist and points out that neither of the two had disputed the tapes’ authenticity. The weekly and others suggest that the scandal could strongly harm the Civic Democrats, of which Mr Bém is a member. The former mayor has suspended his membership until he clears his name. The case is currently under investigation.
In related news, former mayor and Civic Democrat MP Pavel Bém reportedly asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Petr Nečas next week and was refused, the Czech news agency, ČTK, said. According to the press agency, Mr Bém wanted to discuss his support for the government. The prime minister, though, declined the meeting by saying he had already spoken to the ex-mayor on Monday, adding there was little more to discuss. Mr Bém, once considered the “crown prince” of the Civic Democratic Party, as well as a long-time protégé of its founder, President Václav Klaus, was earlier called on by the prime minister to give up his mandate in the Chamber of Deputies, which Mr Bém has refused to do.
The opposition Social Democratic party has slammed the government in connection with the recent scandals, calling on MP and embattled former Prague mayor Pavel Bém, the head of Public Affairs Radek John and Interior Minister Jan Kubice to leave politics. The head of the leftist party Bohuslav Sobotka on Friday charged that the steps were needed to improve the political culture in the country. Regarding specifics, opposition party leader said explanations on how wiretaps were leaked from BIS in the Bém-Janoušek affair were needed, adding – in his view – that Prime Minister Nečas was not taking strong enough steps. Mr Sobotka also charged that both Mr John and Mr Kubice had ties to lobbyist Janoušek, Mr John reportedly having worked at one point for one of his companies, and the interior minister through a family connection. Earlier this week, Mr Kubice said he would not step down over the manner in which police handled Mr Janoušek’s arrest last week after he fled the scene of a drunk driving accident, saying he would in no way influence the investigation.
The Prague 4 district court has rejected an appeal by the state attorney’s office for lobbyist Roman Janoušek – charged with grievous bodily harm and endangering others while under the influence of alcohol in a car accident last week – to be banned from travelling abroad. Prosecutor Jitka Rybenská told the Czech news agency on Friday that the papers were filed at the beginning of the week; a day later, however, the court denied the request. A spokesman for the court would not elaborate. In related news, the woman who was seriously injured when the suspect hit her with his car, a Porsche Cayenee, last Friday is in better condition. The spokeswoman for Motol Hospital has said that she will be released from hospital next week.
A 42-year-old man with a history of schizophrenia was shot and killed at his father’s home in Otrokovice, South Moravia, on Thursday after police responded to a neighbour’s call about possible violence. According to idnes, a police patrol responded at around 7 pm getting the parent out of the apartment before the son, who suffered from heavy schizophrenia, barricaded himself inside one of the rooms. When the police entered, the man attacked them with an axe. He was shot at close range; an attempt to resuscitate him proved futile. After the incident, both the police and the man’s father had to receive trauma counselling. The General Inspection of the Security Services is investigating the tragedy.
Czech tennis player Radek Štepánek and his doubles partner Laender Paes have advanced to the title round at the Miami Masters. The duo defeated the top-seeded Bryan brothers of the US in the semi-finals by a score of 6:4, 6:4, and got all the way through the tournament without dropping a single set. They will face Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Belarus’ Max Mirnyi for the championship.
Only a few games remain in the NHL regular season but a number of Czech players made their mark on Thursday, including Jaromír Jágr, who earned three assists for the Philadelphia. The Flyers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs by a lopsided 7:1. Philadelphia have already clinched a place in the Stanley Cup playoffs and are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference. Toronto, by comparison are well out of contention (fans at the stadium for the game even began a ‘Let’s go Blue Jays!’ chant at one point – referring to the city’s baseball team). On Thursday Czechs earned assists or scored in seven games.
Twenty-two-year-old Czech figure skater Michal Březina completed a stunning performance at the world championships in Nice, France, and is in second place following the completion of the men’s short program. The skater scored 87.67 points (the sixth-best finish in the men’s short program ever, idnes noted). He finished behind Canada’s Patrick Chan who had 89.41. 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan scored 85.72 and is third.