In related news, former education minister Josef Dobeš, who resigned last
week, has slammed his fellow Public Affairs ministers for voting in favor
of additional state budget cuts. He said that some of them placed higher
importance on their mandate than on sticking to the party’s program. He
added that he was the only Public Affairs minister to vote against further
cuts to the Education Ministry’s budget. The party’s latest suggestion,
to find funds for education in other ministries’ budgets, was
pharisaical, he said. Mr Dobeš has also announced that he is even
considering resigning from his post as MP.
Mr Dobeš tendered his official resignation from the ministry to Prime Minister Petr Nečas last Friday. He was one of the most contentious members of the government, having been criticized for mismanagement of EU funds, a botched university reform and most recently his decision to extend the accreditation of the Plzeň faculty of law, a decision he was technically not entitled to make. He is the eighth minister to leave the current government.
Pensioners’ groups have announced a demonstration against planned cuts to the state budget, set to take place on May 30th in Prague. The protest is organized by a senior citizens’ rights umbrella organization, which opposes a planned freeze on the gradual increase of pension payments, which in the past kept pensions in balance with the rate of price increases. Protesters are calling for a postponement of the pension reform to 2016 and have announced that they are prepared to negotiate with the prime minister, the president and both chambers of Parliament. One of the organizers said that this demonstration marked the first time in the Czech Republic that pensioners are taking their discontent to the streets. The government has already announced it plans to make further budget cuts that will also affect pension payments.
The number of road fatalities in the Czech Republic is above the EU average, new data from the European Commission indicates. According to the latest figures, 73 people per one million residents were killed on Czech roads in 2011, as compared to the EU average of only 62 deaths per million. Overall, the EU saw a drop in road deaths of two percent year-on-year; in the Czech Republic, the figure even decreased by four percent. Compared to 2001, the number of traffic fatalities in the EU has dropped by 45 percent.
Hockey club Liberec have taken a 2-1 lead over Pardubice in the playoff semi-finals. Liberec have now won both games at home. On Wednesday they edged Pardubice by a score of 2:1. Liberec scored both goals in the opening period with Jaroslav Kudrna getting the winner. Pardubice got one back in the second but were unable to equalize in a rough match that saw a high number of penalties: nine for Liberec and seven for Pardubice.
The government has approved a bill that will allow citizens to call referenda on the basis of petitions. If approved by Parliament, a general referendum could be called by obtaining 250,000 signatures or by the government. The bill would allow citizens to vote on domestic or international issues that exceed the term of office of one government. They could not be used to decide on the appointment or dismissal of individual officials, tax issues or judicial rulings. Passage of the bill requires a constitutional majority, for which the coalition will need opposition support. The opposition Social Democratic Party has voiced disagreement with various aspects of the legislation, such as the 50% turnout requirement needed for decisions made in referenda to take effect.
The civic initiative pushing for public referenda has criticised the government’s legislation, saying it leaves the decision-making in the hands of the governing majority. The ProAlt movement told a meeting of the Senate’s constitutional law committee that the bill was a shameful assault on democracy. The committee’s deputy chair, Social Democrat Jiří Dienstbier, also called the bill a travesty and said that the government’s proposal was actually aimed at preventing any referendum from taking place. His criticism was not included in the committee’s recommendations, however. The ProAlt movement is a civic initiative aimed at contesting the government’s reform plans with alternative policies.
Interior Minister Jan Kubice has rejected a call from the opposition to resign over family connections to lobbyist Roman Janoušek. Mr Kubice denied any personal responsibility for the bungling of Mr Janoušek's arrest last week, noting that he would only be in office for two hours if he took responsibility for every officer's mistake. Kubice's son-in-law is a lawyer for Mr Janoušek, who was charged with intentional bodily harm under the influence of alcohol last week - that amid a major lobbying scandal involving his influence on Prague City Hall. Additionally, the father-in-law of the interior minister's son heads a company linked to the scandal. Mr Kubice said the relationships had been public knowledge since he took office and said he would in no way influence the investigation.
Police unions have lent their support to Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrášek over the arrest of Roman Janoušek. Police President Petr Lessy on Tuesday called for Mr Vondrášek to take personal responsibility for numerous mistakes made in the lobbyist’s arrest, namely that he was released while intoxicated and allowed to make telephone calls. In a petition released by the unions, policemen and civilian employees say that Vondrášek is a capable and honest policeman and that the Prague police is resistant to political and lobbying influences under his command. Mr Vondrášek says he will only consider resigning after an investigation shows whether the mistakes in the arrest were caused by systemic or individual problems.
Leading Slovak broadsheet SME placed blame for corruption in the Czech Republic squarely on the shoulders of Czech President Václav Klaus on Wednesday, writing that no one else had made such a grand contribution to corruption and cronyism in Czech politics. The paper tore into the president’s recent statement that wiretapping destroys democracy, saying it was typical of him that he was not bothered by the privatisation of political power by lobbyists and mafia members, but by the fact that the public had received evidence of it. SME goes on to recap trends in Mr Klaus’ preference for shady amassment of power among elite politicians and “godfathers”, and says the survival of the Czech right depends on its ridding itself of President Klaus.
Police will form a special riot unit in the restive Šluknov area of Northern Bohemia in April, Police President Petr Lessy has announced. After meeting with the governor of the region on Wednesday, Mr Lessy said the unit would consist of 50 officers and would gradually be increased to 180. Police began considering forming the unit last year after a series of violent incidents and anti-Romany demonstrations in the area. Last week the police said new budget cuts meant that the plan would not be possible, however the Interior Ministry responded that the police should save the money elsewhere and establish the special unit.
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