Six rebel Civic Democrat deputies who may bring down the government over controversial tax-hikes are holding their ground. A meeting on Tuesday morning with a special party working group striving to find a compromise solution failed to break the deadlock. The six rebels are refusing to support a package of tax hikes which the government claims are inevitable for it to meet its fiscal target –i.e. bring the gap in public finances to below 3 percent of GDP in 2013. The rebels’ refusal to support tax hikes puts the government’s fate on the line since the prime minister has linked the bill to a vote of confidence in the centre-right government.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said shortly after the break-down of talks that the government would withdraw the proposed state budget for 2013 from the lower house and revise it. The finance minister said that in view of the deadlock within the Civic Democratic Party he would have to review the expenditures side of the budget and consider how the loss in revenues could be made up for by cuts in the public sector. He stressed that he was not prepared to increase the gap in public spending because of the tax dispute. A new draft budget should be ready within 30 days.
Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka has accused the government of letting the country slide into chaos and noted that the ruling coalition should either get on with the task of ruling the country or resign. Mr. Sobotka said it was unacceptable for the ruling coalition to continue in the present manner when it was not clear whether it had a majority in the lower house, the votes to pass next year’s state budget, what taxes would be in place next year and whether the pension reform would be in force or not. Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip joined the criticism saying the members of the ruling coalition were not serving the country but merely hanging onto power.
Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake has not ruled out fresh negotiations on church restitutions in light of the controversy over next year’s state budget. The deputy prime minister said that the church restitution bill in its present form had been agreed on the basis of proposed state revenues which were now being put to question. Under the proposed legislation, the Czech state would return some 56 percent of the physical property worth around 75 billion crowns; for the rest, Czech churches and religious societies would receive some 60 billion crowns in compensation over a period of 30 years.
Independent presidential candidate Jan Fischer has said he would not let the communists enter into government. Mr. Fischer, a former caretaker prime minister who is one of the hot candidates for the presidential post, said he considers the Communist Party an extremist party which had not fully accepted the post-1989 democratic changes in the country and had a highly negative stand to the European Union and NATO. Mr. Fisher said he would be extremely careful even in accepting a minority left-wing government with support from the Communist Party. Mr. Fischer himself was a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party from 1980 to 1989.
Rival candidate for the presidency Jiri Dienstbier slammed Mr. Fisher’s statement on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Mr. Dienstbier, who is the official candidate of the Social Democratic Party, noted that that the Czech constitution did not give the president the power to decide who should or should not be in government depending on his own preference, he merely appointed a prime minister designate whose task it was to form a government. The constitution is binding for all citizens, the president included, and Mr. Fisher would do well to study it before resorting to populist statements, Jiri Dienstbier said.
The president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbajev is on a two-day state visit to the Czech Republic. President Nazarbajev’s talks with Czech top officials are expected to focus largely on business relations and the two sides are expected to sign a dozen agreements to the tune of 155 million euros in the course of his visit. The Kazakh delegation includes four cabinet ministers and 45 leading entrepreneurs.
Adverse weather conditions have worsened the smog situation around the country including in the Czech capital Prague. Dust particles in the air exceed permitted levels in eight Prague districts with the worst situation reported to be in Karlin, Prague 8. The authorities in the Moravian-Silesian region have called a smog alert and are considering asking the biggest industrial firms in the vicinity of Ostrava and Karvina to scale down production. Children and elderly people as well as chronically ill patients have been advised to stay indoors. No let up is expected until Friday when the weather should change.
The iconic British band Depeche Mode has put Prague on its 2013 world tour. Their concert is scheduled for July 23rd at Prague’s Vrsovice stadium and tickets should start selling at the end of October. The price range is between 1200 crowns to 2000 crowns. Depeche Mode last performed in the Czech Republic at Prague’s O2 Arena in 2010.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has secured a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals in London, becoming the sixth qualifier in an elite field of eight. Coming off of a tournament victory in Stockholm on Sunday, Berdych joins other world-class players Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Two single spots remain open; it is also far from certain that Nadal, who is recovering from a lingering knee injury, will play. Berdych, ranked No. 6 in the world, reached the prestigious tournament’s semi-final stage last year. This year marks his third consecutive appearance.