A new political party is taking shape around the outgoing members of Public Affairs. Karolína Peake told reporters on Wednesday that they would be registering a new political body in the coming days. The faction has not been given a name; Mrs Peake said only that it would be a centre-right party and would hope to have a parliamentary club (which requires a total of 10 MPs). She has declined to say how many MPs she expects to join the new grouping. The ex-Public Affairs members held an organisational meeting regarding the party on Wednesday.
Public Affairs’ chairman Radek John said he was shocked by the development and asserted that the renegade MPs around Karolína Peake were focused on personal gain. Speaking from Warsaw where he is on a business trip, John compared the situation to a 1998 split in the Civic Democratic Party and accused the departing members of taking advantage of his absence to create a party of opportunists. John and Peake publically split two weeks ago over the party leaderships’ instigation of a government crisis.
While the government is counting its supporters, Former Prague mayor and MP Pavel Bém has indicated that the government cannot fully rely on his support for its programme. Having suspended his membership in the ruling Civic Democratic Party over a corruption scandal, Mr Bém told the daily Právo on Wednesday that his support for the government would most likely be on a case by case basis. The question, he said, would be what the new government would offer voters without a mandate from them. For ‘right-wing’ policies he will offer his support. The former mayor was forced out of the party after the emergence of wiretap recordings that suggested he allowed a construction tycoon undue influence over city management.
The Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic is seeking state recognition as a national minority. The associations which applied for the status are asking for a representative on the government’s council for national minorities. By law, national minorities comprise large groups of Czech citizens who reside in the Czech Republic and differ from others through their ethnicity, language, culture and traditions. Vietnamese community is demographically the third largest minority in the Czech Republic, with a population of over 17,000.
The Communist party has surpassed the Civic Democrats for the first time, becoming the second most popular party in the country, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM polling agency. The survey suggests that elections to the Chamber of Deputies would at present be won by the opposition Social Democrats with over one-third of the vote, followed by the Communists with one-fifth of the vote. Third and fourth places would go to the Civic Democrats and TOP 09. Voter turnout would be roughly two-thirds of the general public, the poll says.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will be meeting with his American counterpart Hillary Clinton at a NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday. The two are set to discuss the completion of the Temelín nuclear power plant. The US company Westinghouse is one of several seeking to win the multi-billon crown tender. On Wednesday, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra met with his US counterpart Leon Panetta; during the conference the two will sign an agreement allowing Czech weapons manufacturers access to Us Army tenders.
The government has approved a draft state financial statement, according to which the budget posted a 142.8 billion crown deficit in 2011. The original plan anticipated a 135 billion budget deficit; the difference was reportedly due to problems with drawing subsidies from European funds. The Czech Republic's public finance deficit dropped to 3.1% of gross domestic product last year, while the government anticipated a deficit of 3.7%. Prime Minister Nečas noted that this was no reason to rejoice, saying the public finance deficit was better because of decreased investment activity on the part of municipalities and universities. He added that it was clear that efforts aimed at fiscal austerity must continue.
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.