The Czech Constitutional Court on Friday unanimously rejected a request to postpone the country’s first direct presidential elections, and confirmed that the vote will take place on the originally planned dates; the first round of voting will be held on January 11 and 12, the second two weeks later. The request came from Senator Tomio Okamura whom the Interior Ministry refused to register as candidate. Mr Okamura demanded the election be postponed, and filed a complaint against the ministry’s decision. The Constitutional Court is yet to rule on Mr Okamura’s complaint itself; however, the court said he would not be allowed to stand in the election itself. Reacting to the court’s decision, Senator Okamura said the verdict would create doubts about the election and its legitimacy. The Constitutional Court on Friday also rejected complaints by three other people who were not registered as candidates for the election.
The presidential candidates have welcomed the decision by the Constitutional Court to hold the election on the originally planned dates. Jan Fischer said the decision was good news for Czech citizens, while Táňa Fischerová said she considered the decision wise. For his part, Přemysl Sobotka believes the verdict was appropriate, as people had been getting nervous about whether or not the election would take place, while Jiří Dienstbier said he had expected the court to reject the request to postpone the election. Karel Schwarzenberg said he was glad the vote would take place as originally planned, adding he hoped the decision would not undermine the election’s legitimacy. Nine candidates are in the running.
Around 7,200 Czechs living abroad have registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election, the Czech Foreign Ministry said on Friday. That is some 600 people more than those registered to vote in the previous general election. Czech expats will have to cast their ballots at the country’s embassies and consulates; voting in the Americas will begin on Thursday at 5 PM CET due to the time difference.
The opposition Public Affairs party has filed a complaint to the
Constitutional Court over the restitution of church property, its deputy
head said on Friday. The group complains about alleged irregularities in
the procedure in the lower house of Parliament, which approved the deal,
and other issues. The court received the complaint on December 31, its
Last November, the Czech Parliament approved a massive church property restitution deal under which the Roman Catholic Church and other religious group will get back property confiscated by the communist regime worth around 75 billion crowns; they are also set to receive another 59 billion in compensation for property that cannot be returned.
Eight out of 36 Czech prisons on Friday concluded the release of prisoners freed under an amnesty declared by President Václav Klaus. Over 5,000 prisoners have been released so far, or around two-thirds of all those who are serving terms and are affected by the amnesty. In total, the amnesty shoudl affect over 32,000 people. Many of the freed prisoners have no financial means, and prisons therefore provide them with assistance to reach their homes. Several freed prisoners have already been arrested again for crimes committed soon after their release.
More than 80 percent of people oppose the amnesty declared by President Václav Klaus, according to an online poll by the SANEP agency. More than 40 percent of people who took part in the survey consider the amnesty an immoral and irresponsible move which legitimizes serious crime, while 20 percent believe the amnesty will help criminals with links to top politicians. Some 10 percent of those polled approve of the amnesty’s scope.
The Czech Transport Ministry on Friday released detailed information about subsidies of the country’s express train services. The state annually pays around four billion crowns for the services provided by the state-owned Czech Railways. The highest sum – some 650 million crowns – covers losses on the major train route between Germany and Austria via Prague, Brno and Břeclav. However, the biggest losses – some 225 crowns per each kilometre – are registered on Ostrava-Krnov-Olomouc route. The ministry released the information in connection with a tender issued last year for the operation of the Olomouc-Ostrava line. Czech Railways criticized the move as potential harmful to the company.
Planned changes to driving licence rules have prompted higher sales of scooters, the news agency ČTK reported on Friday. As of mid January, driving licences for cars will allow drivers to ride scooters with engines of up to 125 ccm; as a result, sales of motorcycles in this category have risen by some 30 percent in the past several months. The most popular model on the Czech market is the Honda PCX 125. However, overall sales of motorcycles decreased last year by around 8 percent.
A court in Plzeň on Friday sentenced a woman to 20 years in prison for attempting to kill her five-year-old daughter. The woman originally received an exceptional sentence of 25 years but the Constitutional Court overturned the verdict. The woman was convicted of attempted murder; in 2010, she deliberately poisoned her daughter with antifreeze she added to her tea, and only called an ambulance several hours later. The girl survived without any permanent damage to her health.
The Czech under 20 national hockey team beat Switzerland 4:3 on Friday to finish fifth at the world championships in Ufa. The Czechs were losing 1:0 after the first 20 minutes but won the second period 3:1, and successfully defended their lead in the final stage of the game. The Czech team also ended fifth at the previous under 20 world championships in Canada last year.