The ruling parties have secured support for a package of controversial tax hikes that threatened to bring down the centre-right government. The six rebel Civic Democrat MPs who were holding out against the bill all bowed to pressure from the newly elected Civic Democrat leadership on Tuesday as the crucial vote, tied to a vote of confidence, neared. MPs Petr Tluchoř, Marek Šnajdr and Ivan Fuksa have said they will give up their seats in the lower house on Wednesday morning to enable the bill to pass. Two other MPs have promised to support the bill despite their strong reservations to it and the last of the six has said he will leave the assembly hall during the vote. The package of controversial tax hikes is a key component of the government’s austerity measures for 2013 aimed at bringing the deficit in public spending below 3 percent of the GDP. It is directly linked to next year’s state budget which will also be debated in the lower house on Wednesday.
Eleven candidates are in the running for the top post in the country’s first direct presidential elections. The deadline for registrations expired on Tuesday and the eleven candidates registered are: Social Democrat deputy chairman Jiří Dienstbier, former finance minister Vladimír Dlouhý, former interim prime minister Jan Fischer, MEP Zuzana Roithová, Senate deputy chairman Přemysl Sobotka, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, former prime minister Miloš Zeman, former MEP Jana Bobošíková, composer Vladimir Franz, newly-elected senator Tomio Okamura and actress Tanya Fischerova. Their registrations will be confirmed in mid-November after some of the signatures collected have been checked at random. Election criteria require candidates to collect signatures from 10 senators, 20 MPs or 50,000 citizens. The first direct presidential election in the country’s history is scheduled for January 11-12. The two most successful candidates will meet in a second round to be held two weeks later.
MP Milan Stovicek who was expelled from the opposition Public Affairs party last week for consistently breaking party ranks and voting with the government on key reform bills has left the party’s deputies’ group in the lower house. Mr. Stovicek said he respected the decision. The former Public Affairs deputy has said he supports the government’s reform plans and there are efforts to secure his support for the controversial tax-hike bill on Wednesday. Public Affairs was formerly a member of the centre-right governing coalition but split and the core of the party went into the opposition, with a group around Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake remaining in government and setting up a new political party under the name LIDEM.
The process of forming new local governments in the wake of regional elections continues. Talks in the Hradec Kralove region have produced a coalition of Social Democrats and Communists, with Social Democrat Lubomir Franc retaining the governor’s post. The Social Democrats will have six seats on the nine member council, the Communist Party three. Left wing parties had a strong showing in the regional elections and will dominate coalitions around the country.
An army plane on Tuesday transported 10 injured Syrian refugees to the Czech Republic for medical treatment. The six adults and four children who were flown to Prague from Jordan are undergoing medical examinations at a Prague hospital. They are receiving care within the Medevac humanitarian aid programme. The Czech Republic has sent aid to Syrian refugees to the tune of 14 million crowns.
Czech industrial output decreased by 7.1 percent year-on-year in September, compared with a drop of 3.1 percent in August, the Czech Statistical Office reported on Tuesday. The steep fall is being attributed to weakening domestic and foreign demand as well as a lower number of work days in the month of September. The results for September are slightly worse than predicted and a poll among industrial leaders indicates a simile trend for the rest of the year.
Czech building output fell by an annual rate of 10.6 percent in September, up from a 4.7 percent decrease in August, according to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office on Tuesday. September saw a lower number of initiated construction jobs and building permits, while the number of completed buildings posted an annual growth of 4.6 percent. Seasonally adjusted building output was 1.5 percent lower on the month. Building construction dropped by 8.2 percent and civil engineering construction was 15.8 percent lower in annual terms.
An exhibition of 14 diamond dust paintings by pop-art legend Andy Warhol opened in a diamond jewellery shop in the centre of Prague on Tuesday. Warhol used silkscreen ink and diamond dust to make the pictures. The exhibition, organized by Diamonds International Corporation and the US -Slovak Saga Gallery is open through November 20.
Police have cracked down on Prague’s SAPA open air market confiscating counterfeit goods worth millions of crowns. Among the fake goods was sports gear with fake labels to the tune of 4 billion crowns and 13,000 watches with Rolex and Breitling labels being sold for 500 to 1,500 crowns apiece. The price of the originals would be around two billion crowns. A thirty-three-year-old foreign national was detained for questioning. Customs officers and police frequently target open air markets which are known to sell fake labels and rarely come away empty handed.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych began well against Britain’s Andy Murray in their round-robin match of the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London on Monday, but ultimately saw the match slip away. Berdych, who has a good record against this year’s US Open winner and world No. 3 dominated the first set 6:3, but was himself outplayed in the two remaining 6:3, 6:4. Berdych still has a chance to move forward in the prestigious tournament, if he can defeat France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who also lost his opening match against top player Novak Djokovic.