Trade Union leader Miroslav Zavadil said he was surprised and pleased by the strength of public support for the anti-government demonstration. He put the number of protesters at 120,000 saying it was the biggest anti-government protest since the fall of communism in 1989. Trade unions are considering further action if the government does not fall next week due to having lost its majority in the lower house. Bohumir Dufek, chairman of the Czech Association of Independent Trade said that if the government managed to muster enough support from independent deputies he would try to rally support for a general strike.
Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake, who triggered the latest government crisis by defecting from the junior coalition Party Public Affairs and establishing a break-away faction with which she hopes to continue to support the centre-right government, said early elections would not be a good solution to the present crisis. Mrs Peake said it was important to press ahead with reforms in the interest of young people and the country’s future. She noted that it was not just the Czech Republic but all of Europe which was going through bad times and appealed on the public to take a responsible stance to the country’s problems.
The leaders of the embattled coalition government are to meet on Sunday to debate the crisis precipitated by the split of the junior coalition party Public Affairs. The party’s split into two factions – one around its founder and informal leader Vit Bárta and the other around Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake – has robbed the government of its majority in the lower house and put into question its future existence. The Civic Democrats and TOP 09 no longer want to rule with the scandal-tainted faction around Vit Barta and Deputy Prime Minister Peake may not rally enough supporters behind her to establish a deputies’ club and secure a “safe” majority for the government.
Police are gearing up for a march of ultra-right supporters in the town of Břeclav on Sunday, where the youth branch of the National Workers Party for Social Justice aids to demonstrate its solidarity with a 15-year-old youth who was brutally attacked by three allegedly Roma youths. The victim had to have one of his kidneys removed after the attack suffered liver damage as well. He remains in serious condition. The incident has heightened racial tension in the town and police are expected to be out in force for the event aiming to prevent skirmishes and keep the march away from Roma dwellings. An initiative against race hate has also called a demonstration on the same day.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico visited Prague on Friday, on his first foreign trip since his re-election last month. Mr Fico met with his Czech counterpart Petr Nečas. The two leaders agreed that relations between both countries were excellent and pledged to further expand cooperation between both nations. Both leaders said that while their governments differed on some key issues such as EU policies, this did not affect the quality of Czech-Slovak relations. Mr Fico added that it was not his place to comment on the decision of the Czech government to not join the EU’s fiscal compact. The Slovak leader is met with President Václav Klaus and the head of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka.
Commenting on a protest to take place in Prague Saturday, with an expected turnout of about 100,000 citizens, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that while people have the right to freely express their opinions, this needs to happen within the limits of what is legal. He added that similar protests were taking place across Europe and that it was everyone’s right to take their discontent to the streets. Organizers of the protest are demonstrating against Mr Nečas’s government and its austerity measures.
Influential Czech entrepreneur Zdeněk Bakala has written an open letter to Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas. In the letter, he calls on the prime minister to refrain from making accusations lacking evidence directed against his person in interviews. He further writes that his lawyer has taken the matter to the state prosecutor’s office and has asked it to intervene in the case of further public allegations. In recent months, Mr Nečas had mentioned Mr Bakala's name in connection with a police investigation into the privatization of OKD, a major mining company, in interviews with a number of dailies and weeklies. Mr Bakala has made it clear that he was not involved in the privatization process and that it was completed when his financial group NWR took over the joint stock company.
Czech rower Václav Chalupa, who won silver at the Olympics in 1992, has withdrawn his candidature for Public Affairs in the Senate elections scheduled to be held in the fall. He said that his decision was connected to the current political situation as well as personal reasons. On Monday, the party has announced that the athlete was running on its ballot. A day later, deputy prime minister Karolína Peské announced her split with Public Affairs and said she would form a new government faction.
The Czech Dental Chamber has slammed a planned health care reform which it claims will increase administrative tasks for dentists while at the same time creating disadvantages for patients. The chamber has demanded a speedy re-negotiation of problematic points from the government. Among the changes the dental chamber criticizes is the introduction of a new regulation that requires both parents to give approval to their child being treated by a dentist. While dentists believe that such approval should be necessary only for serious procedures, the health ministry would like to see mandatory approval from both parents introduced for all types of dental treatment of minors.
The woman who became the victim of hit-and-run driver and influential lobbyist Roman Janoušek was released from hospital on Friday. The 51-year-old Vietnamese woman was treated at a Prague hospital for four weeks following the accident. According to hospital staff, the woman’s state of health is stable, but she will not yet be able to return to work. Her sister-in-law, who was in the car at the time of the accident, already testified in the case. Mr Janoušek was drunk-driving when he ran over the woman. He left the site of the accident without helping his victim. The accident received a lot of media attention. It happened days after allegations of corruption involving the influential entrepreneur and former Prague mayor Pavel Bém became public.
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