According to a new survey by the STEM polling agency, 46 percent of Czechs
(down from 53 percent a year ago) say the current democratic system is
better than the former Communist regime in Czechoslovakia before 1989.
One-third survey said the opposite was true, while 22 percent said the two
systems measured up almost the same. STEM has run the poll annually since
1992. That year, the highest number – 69 percent – said they said the
current system was better. More than 1,100 people over the age of 18 took
part in the survey which was conducted from January 4-11.
Rainy weather is expected in the coming days, with temperatures due to reach up to 6 degrees Celsius.
The Prague High Court has sentenced former Prague City Police chief Vladimír Kotrouš to five-and-and-a-half years in prison, lowering his original six-year sentence. In addition, the court ruled that Mr Kotrouš was banned from working in any of the security forces for five years and will also have to pay a 400,000 crown fine. The former police chief was arrested with a 150,000 crown bribe on his person last year, which he admitted to; the prosecution charged that he had asked for an overall sum of one million. Mr Kotrouš said that his family’s unforeseen financial difficulties had led him to break the law.
Members of the campaign team of presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg (who finished second in the recent presidential election) have revealed they will not attempt to found a new political platform. Spokesman Marek Pražák said the campaign team had had one goal which was to try and get its candidate elected. He made clear that members respected the results, despite a thin line, in the team’s view, walked by their rivals regarding some statements in the final weeks of the campaign. Mr Pražák called on supporters to push for greater decency in Czech politics. In the runoff election last weekend, Mr Schwarzenberg earned more than 2.2 million votes – not enough to beat fellow candidate Miloš Zeman who received roughly 500,000 more.
Outgoing President Václav Klaus, who steps down in a little over a month, is weighing the possibility of a post within the structure of the European Union, Czech daily Lidové noviny reports. According to the newspaper, citing an anonymous source close to the president, there is a possibility the former head-of-state would even be “satisfied” with the post of euro MP, noting elections to the European Parliament are scheduled for next spring, enough time for Mr Klaus to launch a new party to back his bid. Mr Klaus is widely-regarded as a staunch eurosceptic opposed to further federalisation; any new party formed by him would be expected to have a strong anti-federalist platform. Several highly-placed members of the Civic Democratic Party that he once headed, meanwhile, expressed support for the outgoing president continuing in politics. One of Mr Klaus’ closest advisors, Ladislav Jakl, told the daily he had no information about the president’s plans.
A bill legalising the use of marijuana for medical purposes has been passed by the Czech Senate, and can take effect after being signed by the president; 67 of 74 senators present on Wednesday voted in favour of the legislation. Medical cannabis has been shown to be effective in alleviating symptoms of diseases ranging from cancer to Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Patients will be able to purchase medical marijuana with an electronic doctor’s prescription. Critics of the bill had charged that many patients would not be able to afford legalised marijuana unless the price was at least partially covered by public health insurance, which insurers opposed. According to some estimates, some patients could pay up to 10,000 crowns a month.
In related news, a new poll by the CVVM agency suggests that support for governing coalition member TOP 09, headed by Mr Schwarzenberg, doubled during the presidential elections, jumping from a single-digit to double figures. Support for the centre-right party would rank at 16 percent if elections were held today, mirroring the results of the actual 2010 Parliamentary election when the party received 16.7 percent. The opposition Social Democrats also improved on recent polls and would win the election with 38 percent of the vote. The Communists would come second with 17.5 percent and the ruling Civic Democrats last with 13 percent. According to the survey, no other party would pass the five percent threshold to make it into the Chamber of Deputies.
The councillor for education in the region of South Bohemia, the Communist Party’s Vítezslava Baborová, stepped down on Wednesday sending a letter of resignation to regional governor Jiří Zimola. Mrs Baborová explained in the letter that she was resigning for health reasons. Her decision will come into effect on February 3. The politician, as a member of the Communist Party, was strongly opposed by students and other activists who waged a public campaign against her instatement. The regional governor has declined to discuss possible successors.
The Czech government is considering equipping and training a Malian army battalion within a possible EU mission, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Wednesday, after the cabinet session. He added that Prague was primarily negotiating the possibility with France, which put boots on the ground in Mali after Islamist militants were said to be threatening the south of the country. Great Britain is to send 330 troops to help. Sending Czech military instructors would require the consent of not only of the Czech government but also of Parliament. Prague is considering not only providing military expertise and equipment but has made clear it will send an additional three million crowns to Mali in humanitarian aid.
TOP 09, the second largest party in the government, will only sign a new coalition deal with the Civic Democrats and LIDEM if it contains a commitment to the Czech Republic joining the EU’s Fiscal Compact by the end of 2013. The Czech Republic and the UK are the only members that have not signed up to the treaty, which sets strict limits for the budget deficits of eurozone states. TOP 09’s Miroslav Kalousek, who is the minister of finance, announced the demand after a meeting of party leaders on Tuesday.
Midfielder Tomáš Rosický will return to the Czech squad for an away friendly against Turkey next Wednesday. The Arsenal player, who is 32, last played for the national soccer team against Greece at Euro 2012, where he sustained an Achilles’ tendon injury. He has also suffered from a calf problem this season. Tomáš Huebschmann, Václav Pilář and Tomáš Necid are all unavailable for the game, while Stanislav Tecl of Viktoria Plzeň receives his first call-up. The Czechs are third in their World Cup qualifying group and face Denmark and Armenia in March.
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