The incumbent Social Democrat leader, Bohuslav Sobotka was re-elected
party chairman at a congress in Ostrava on Friday. Mr Sobotka, who faced
challengers for the post, was backed by more than 500 of 600 delegates at
the event. After the vote, Bohuslav Sobotka said the party must present a
realistic programme for the next general election, rather than populist
promises. The opposition is generally expected to win the next
parliamentary election, scheduled for 2014. The re-elected chairman also
said the first legislation to be passed by his government would be an act
on property declarations.
The Social Democrat congress also re-elected Michal Hašek the party's first deputy chair; 13 people, including Social Democrat presidential candidate Jiří Dienstbier, are meanwhile running for five posts of deputy chairs.
President Miloš Zeman addressed the Social Democrat party conference in Ostrava on Friday. In his 20-minute speech, the president said that if the Social Democrats win the next general election, they should form a one-party government. Mr Zeman also said that as president, he was non-partisan but as a citizen, he wished the party victory at the polls. In his much anticipated address, President Zeman, himself a former Social Democrat leader, also rejected the idea he would use his influence to split the party over a conflict that made him leave the Social Democrats in 2007. President Zeman received standing ovations from the congress during his address.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has no news of two Czech tourists who had been kidnapped in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, a spokeswoman for the ministry said. The ministry has set up a crisis team to deal with the situation but has received no concrete information from Pakistani authorities of the whereabouts of the two women, or who could have kidnapped them. Friends and family of the abducted Czech travellers have meanwhile set up an internet website in their support.
A court in Hodonín on Friday acquitted MP Otto Chaloupka, of the opposition Public Affairs party, of corruption charges. Mr Chaloupka faced accusations that he made his assistant pay 60,000 crowns as contribution to the party’s campaign ahead of the 2010 general election. The court also acquitted the assistant who was accused of bribery; the judge argued there was no proof that any corruption occurred. The prosecutor said he would decide whether he would appeal the verdict at a higher court.
Army general Vlastimil Picek is set to become the country’s new defense minister, according to government sources cited by the CTK news agency. The former army chief of staff, who currently serves as deputy defence minister, is a widely respected expert in the field though his appointment to the post is vehemently opposed by the smallest party in government LIDEM which wanted a civilian to lead the Czech Defence Ministry. Prime Minister Petr Nečas has strongly advocated the general’s appointment and has reportedly won over the TOP 09 party for the idea. The coalition had come under fire both from the military and from opposition benches for procrastinating in filling the crucial government post which has been vacant for some three months.
The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has unveiled a new plan to combat rising levels of unemployment. Minister Ludmila Müllerová who presented the plan at a news conference in Prague on Friday, said the ministry would spend around seven billion crowns on the programme which includes subsidies for companies which give jobs to unemployed people under 30, support for part-time jobs for mothers and long-term job-seekers, as well as subsidies for the jobless who will become self-employed. The ministry also plans to enhance assistance and support for municipalities, NGOs as well as job seekers.
The troubled Czech truck maker Tatra was sold at an auction on Friday, three weeks after the firm was declared bankrupt. The company was acquired for 176 million crowns, or around 9 million US dollars, by a newly-established firm, Truck Development, which is financed by the investment group J&T. Tatra’s assets have been established at 1.76 billion crowns while its commitments reached 1.5 billion crowns. Tatra CEO, Ronald Adams, welcomed the news and said the change in ownership would solve the firm’s financial difficulties.
MP David Rath, who has been in police custody since last May on corruption charges, remains in detention after the prosecutors filed an appeal against a Prague court ruling to release him on a two-million-crown bail. The appeal will be heard by an appellate court in the coming weeks. David Rath, a former influential Social Democrat and governor of Central Bohemia, was arrested in May 2012 with seven million crowns of what the police believe was a bribe. He is facing 11 years in jail for bribery and abuse of power.
The Czech carrier ČSA on Friday cancelled one of its Prague- Düsseldorf flights due to a strike by security personnel at several German airports. The strike could also affect other flights between Prague, Düsseldorf and Cologne, operated by ČSA and the German airline Lufthansa, a spokeswoman for Prague’s Václav Havel Airport said.
The Czech police on Friday closed down border crossings between the Czech Republic and Slovakia for heavy trucks heading to Hungary and Slovenia due to poor weather conditions in those countries. Heavy snow and strong winds are complicating traffic on Slovenian and Hungarian roads. A police spokeswoman said it was not clear when the border crossings would re-open.