Leading Public Affairs figure Karolína Peake has left the party. The deputy chairwoman of the junior coalition party made the announcement at a special press conference on Tuesday, saying that she disliked the style with which Public Affairs presents itself and intends to start a new political platform. Peake is the latest of several leading figures to leave the party in the wake of numerous scandals that have kept it in the front of public attention for the last several weeks. She notably broke with party chairman Radek John over the party’s recent instigation of a government crisis, leading many to expect that Public Affairs would soon split along factions centred around Peake and Vít Bárta, who was convicted of bribery last week.
Regarding a step that further destabilises the Czech governing coalition, Ms Peak said Tuesday that she will adhere to the coalition agreement and will speak with Prime Minister Petr Nečas about her continuation in the cabinet. While she said the decision was her own, and had been considered for some time, other members of Public Affairs would be welcome to join her. Recent support for Peake from those within the party suggests that as many as seven party MPs may follow her out of Public Affairs, theoretically allowing the government to maintain a slight majority without the party’s support. Soon after her announcement, Public Affairs MP Dagmar Návratilová praised Peake and said that she was not surprised by the decision. Ms Peake says that the political style of Public Affairs masked their successes. The conviction of Vít Bárta, she said, had nothing to do with her leaving the party.
Politicians from various parties were quick to offer praise for Ms Peake’s disavowal of Public Affairs. Prime Minister Nečas said he was somewhat surprised at her decision but saw no reason why she could not remain in the cabinet. TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg and his deputy, Miroslav Kalousek, said that Ms Peake was a courageous woman. President Klaus said the plan to create a new political entity out of a splinter of Public Affairs would create further commotion on the Czech political scene. The government, he said, should either have a clear majority or else early elections should be called as soon as possible.
Ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský says the Czech state has failed in its care for foreign children. In a press release the ombudsman criticised the illegal isolation and maltreatment of children in the Permon centre in Central Bohemia, which was established for the children of foreigners whose parents are unable to look after them, who do not speak Czech and who may suffer from some previous traumas. Mr Varvařovský noted that the children lacked privacy and there were reports of sexual attacks among them. Moreover, nearly half of the children in the institution are Slovaks and a large part of them speak Czech, and therefore do not have to be in the centre at all. The ombudsman's office warned of the mistakes four years ago and says nothing has changed due to the ‘passivity’ of the Education Ministry.
Miroslava Němcová of the Civic Democrats has announced her decision not to run in the party’s primary presidential elections. Mrs Němcova who was seen as a hot favourite for the candidacy, said that as chairman of the lower house she felt a responsibility for the stability of the lower chamber that had won out over her personal aspirations. The primary race will thus most likely be between Senate Chairman Přemysl Sobotka and MEP Evžen Tošenovsky, a former regional governor. The deadline for party nominations is April 22nd and the primary elections should take place by July at the latest. President Klaus’ second term in office is due to expire in March of next year and the next Czech head of state will be elected in a direct vote in late January or early February.
Czech courts dealt far more with small corruption cases between 2007 and 2009, according to corruption watchdog Transparency International. According to analysis made by the organisation that maps 233 court verdicts, courts generally abided by established practice – if their verdicts sharply diverted from established practice, it was generally in connection with more serious cases of corruption. Transparency International says that courts imposed excessively soft punishments during the period surveyed. The most frequent corruption cases handled by courts were those of road police who released offending drivers in exchange for bribes.
The Public Affairs party is considering two candidates for the post of education minister following the resignation of Josef Dobeš last month. Independent Jiří Nantl is currently a deputy minister in education; the other nominee is an unnamed member of the junior coalition party who reportedly worked in the ministry. The party leadership met for roughly an hour on Tuesday with Mr Nantl, who presented his plan for the ministry and said he is seeking a mandate for systematic changes. Public Affairs says its primary conditions for the candidate are expertise and experience in the ministry so as not to prolong the current problems with EU funding. Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said he wants a nominee by the end of the week.
Czech researchers have found a species of rat on an island of the Philippines that was believed to be extinct. The Dinagat bushy-tailed cloud rat was previously known only through a single specimen from the island, described in 1975. Zoologists Václav and Milada Řeháková spotted the nocturnal tree-dweller in January in the last virgin forest on the island. The brown, 55cm rodent is one of the largest in the world and has been sought in vain by numerous scientific expeditions. Logging and mineral mining has devastated its habitat on the Dinagat Islands and left the rodent critically endangered.
Well-known Czech photographer Dagmar Hochová has died at the age of 86. Ms Hochová gained attention in the 1950s and 60s for her black-and-white photographs of the lives of children. After the Velvet Revolution she sat as an MP for the Civic Forum for two years and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Merit. He work is included in two exhibitions at the Museum of Decorative Arts and National Gallery in Prague.
The eastern Moravian town of Uherské Hradiště has been named Historic City of 2011. The million-crown award is given to the municipality that best cared for its historical monuments in the previous year. Organisers this year also selected between the east Bohemian towns of Kutná Hora and Chrudim. The ancient town of Uherské Hradiště, which has a population of around 25,000, was praised for its long-term conceptual approach to the reconstruction of its historical centre and for achieving political consensus that town representatives have found in dealing with the issue.