Former presidential candidate Jiří Dienstbier lost his post as deputy
chairman of the Social Democratic Party to the governor of the Plzeň
region, Milan Chovanec, at the party congress in Ostrava. The vote on
Friday night confirmed the other former deputy chairs - Zdeněk Škromach,
Lubomír Zaorálek, Martin Starec.
After a second round of voting at the party congress, Alena Gajdůšková was elected as a deputy chairwoman of the party. The Social Democratic Party’s rules party’s rules require that at least one of the deputy chair-people must be a woman. Ms Gajdůšková, who is also the first deputy chairwoman of the opposition-controlled senate, beat out the former deputy chairwoman of the party Marie Benešová.
Gabriela Soukalová claimed her third victory this season on Saturday at the Biathlon World Cup in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia. The 23-year-old won the women’s 10K pursuit with two penalties, ahead of Russia’s Olga Vilukhina and Norway’s Olympic champion Tora Berger. Soukalová had also come first in the sprint on Thursday evening. Her first victory of the season, and the first World Cup gold of her career, came this past December when she won the women’s sprint in Slovenia.
The shadow finance minister Jan Mládek announced that if his party, the Social Democrats, will come to power after the parliamentary elections in 2014, they will introduce a progressive personal income tax with a highest rate of 38 percent of the gross salary. Speaking at the Social Democratic congress on Saturday, Mr Mládek said the Social Democrats will raises corporate taxes from 19 to 21 percent, and create a special 30-percent tax for large financial, energy and telecommunication companies.
The Social Democrats voted down a proposal to repeal a resolution that prohibits the party from creating a governing coalition with the Communist Party. Although the proposal received the support of only nine delegates at the party congress, the party’s chairman Bohuslav Sobotka has indicated in the past that he would consider forming a minority government with the support of the communists. The largest opposition party is currently expected to win the next parliamentary elections.
A plaque commemorating former Czechoslovak president and general Ludvík Svoboda was unveiled in his hometown of Hroznatín in the Vysočina region on Saturday. A few hundred people attended the ceremony to commemorate soldiers of the First Czechoslovak Army Corp, which Svoboda commanded and which fought alongside the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front during World War Two. This week marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the battle of Sokolovo, during which Soviet and Czechoslovak troops were able to stop the German army’s advance into eastern Ukraine.
Speaking in front of the delegates at the Social Democratic congress on Saturday morning, the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said that in the case of victory in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the Czech Social Democrats should consider forming a government without other parties, as his own party Smer decided to do after the 2012 elections. The Smer chairman emphasized that in order to overcome the current crisis, Europe needs to ascribe more to true social democratic values.
Twenty-four of the total 34 soldier set to take part in a EU mission in Mali left Prague on Saturday morning. Czech troops will first be guarding the base for the EU training mission and later will also be helping in the training of Malian soldiers. This is the first operation in Africa for the Czechs. They will be spending a total of 15 months in Mali.
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.
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 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.
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