The Public Affairs party will leave the government if Prime Minister
Nečas does not meet certain demands. After a seven-hour meeting on
Wednesday, the party's gremium ordered its ministers to leave the
government by May 1 if the Prime Minister does not agree almost immediately
to resolve a number of issues and affairs that the party says has damaged
the credibility of the government. The basis for the gremium's vote on
whether to remain in government was the recent release of a taped telephone
conversation between two party officials which suggested that members of
the senior coalition party, the Civic Democrats, had attempted to
orchestrate a coup within Public Affairs.
Prime Minister Nečas responded to the public annoucement by saying he refused blackmail and ultimatums and expects the junior coalition party to bring their complaints to him personally, rather than through the media. Public Affairs, he said, was alone responsible for the lack of trust in government. Should the government collapse, he said he would support the scheduling of early elections as quickly as possible - an option also voiced by Miroslav Kalousek, deputy chair of the other party in the coalition, TOP 09.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Prague on Tuesday for a brief working visit. During a five-hour trip, Ms Merkel met with Prime Minister Petr Nečas on the European fiscal pact and the completion of the Temelín nuclear power plant; the two are also taking part in a debate on the future of Europe with students of Charles University. The German chancellor has said she respects the Czech stances on nuclear power and the Euro pact, though her country holds opposing positions. Germany definitively abandoned nuclear energy after the Fukushima catastrophe in Japan last year, and has spearheaded the fiscal responsibility pact, which binds the signatories´ governments to observe balanced state budgets. The Czech Republic and Britain are the only two EU members that have not yet acceded to the pact.
Speaking at a lecture at the law college of Charles University, Chancellor Merkel said she believes that states will continue to pass their competencies to the European Union, when the union does a better job of it. Citing the free trade agreement that the EU signed collectively with South Korea, she said that some matters can be handled better by Brussels than by the member states alone. She said she considers the European Commission to be a kind of Union government, with state leaders there to ensure their countries do not lose their powers.
A senate commission investigating intelligence leaks has called on Prime
Minister Nečas and his predecessor, Mirek Topolánek, to testify.
According to the head of the commission, Social Democrat Richard Dolejš,
Mr Nečas should be given the opportunity to comment on the issue as the
person responsible for coordinating the secret services. The commission
wants to hear Mr Topolánek due to his recent comments in the media that
the Security Information Service did not receive complete information on
the Bém-Janoušek case.
The commission is investigating media claims that the Security Information Service leaked wiretapped telephone calls between former Prague mayor Pavel Bém and his friend, construction tycoon Roman Janoušek, to the detective agency ABL. The conversations suggest the businessman had an inordinate amount of influence on city governance.
Unions and civic initiatives have launched a campaign to push for early parliamentary elections. The aim of the “Stop the Government” campaign is to end the government reforms and force the cabinet to resign. A demonstration called for April 21 in Prague is to be followed by a week of protests in cities throughout the country. Among other things, the unions’ complaints focus on measures such as increased VAT, slowing pension growth, and the dismissal of public sector employees. School sector unions will likely also protest, while transport unions have said they are prepared to launch a larger strike than last June.
The Interior Ministry is seeking to increase the authorities of municipal police officers in order to cover expected layoffs in the state police. According to the ministry’s proposed legislation, municipal officers would be able to fill some of the roles of the state police by inspecting bars and casinos after hours, conduct drug and alcohol tests and accessing citizen’s police records. While municipal police departments have welcomed parts of the idea, others have warned that the plan could pose problems for small communities, as only around 350 of the 6,000 communities in the Czech Republic have a police presence. The state police has warned that planned cuts to the Interior Ministry budget will mean closing a quarter of the country’s police stations and laying off a corresponding amount of the force, some 10,000 police officers.
The Senate’s constitutional legal committee has voted down the latest candidate to the Constitutional Court, Zdeněk Koudelka. President Václav Klaus nominated the head of the Kroměříž law academy early last month as his second nominee; his first, Jan Sváček, was rejected by the upper house in December on the grounds that he had joined the Communist Party in 1989. Although a member of the Social Democratic Party, which controls the Senate, Mr Koudelka was considered to lack support in the party as an ally of the president. He received three of eight votes in the secret ballot.
The Civic Democratic Party was the most popular Czech political party among sponsors last year, having received 93.4 million crowns according to their annual financial statement. Parties’ financial statements for 2011, made available to the public this week, show that the Public Affairs party officially received 38.4 million crowns while the opposition Social Democrats received 36.6 million. The TOP 09 party took in only 6.8 million crowns from sponsors and the Communists 5.6 million. The daily Právo challenged some of the major sponsors of Public Affairs at the weekend, writing that some of the major donors were bearer share companies, one of which is seated in Panama and many of which have the same official address.
Nearly four out of five Czechs believe Václav Havel was a good president, according to a poll released by the CVVM agency. Roughly three out of four Slovaks held the same opinion. The poll suggests that public opinion of the work and personality of the late president is consistently high throughout Central Europe, with the most critical responses given in the former Czechoslovakia and almost none in Poland, while in Hungary 44% responded that they did not know Havel. Of the Czech respondents, Communist party supporters most often held a critical attitude towards Havel, though most of them agreed with the statement that he was a significant defender of human rights and a good president.
Right-wing extremists were considering attacks on people and buildings in the Czech Republic, the organised crime squad of the police announced Tuesday. A March raid led to nine suspects were not taken into custody but are being investigated for founding, supporting and promoting a movement suppressive of human rights and freedoms. Police say the charges may be extended because some members of the group may be responsible for arson attacks, including a recent attack on a dormitory also inhabited by Roma in the town of Aš. The raids reportedly uncovered neo-Nazi promotional materials, illegal firearms, instructions and material for explosives and industrial detonators.