The Communist Party will recommend that their supporters vote for one of two left-wing politicians standing for the post of president. Both Social Democrat MP Jiří Dienstbier and Miloš Zeman, a former Social Democrat prime minister, asked the Communists to give them their backing. But after a meeting on Saturday the Communists, who are not fielding a candidate of their own, said they hoped their voters would support one or other of the two. Party leader Vojtěch Filip said that while Mr. Zeman was more experienced and a better speaker, Mr. Dienstbier was stronger in the field of foreign policy.
Three people who committed suicide together at Roblín near Prague at the end of November met on the internet. Police were baffled when two men, of 39 and 27, and a woman of 37 from different corners of the Czech Republic were found dead in a car in the town. A police spokesperson said on Saturday that it had been ascertained that the three had met on an internet chat site; they had all been depressed for some time and agreed that while they did not want to go on living they could not face committing suicide on their own.
A retrospective of films by the two-time Oscar-winning Czech director Miloš Forman got underway at Prague’s Municipal Library on Friday night. The opening film was Ragtime (1981), which has never received cinema distribution in Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic. Among those present was the cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček, who has worked closely with Forman over the years. The director, who turned 80 this year, will in February receive the Directors Guild of America's lifetime achievement award for distinguished achievement in motion picture direction.
Record cold temperatures were recorded in some parts of the country on Friday night. Meteorologists said record lows for December 8 were registered at 16 percent of Czech weather stations that had been in existence for at least 30 years. It was -15.1 Celsius in Teplice, the lowest temperature experienced in the north Bohemian town on that date since 1925, while the coldest spot in the Czech Republic was Jizerka in the Liberec Region, where thermometers fell to -27 Celsius.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has announced significant concessions to the government’s S-card system streamlining social and welfare benefit payments that is to come into effect in January next year. In line with a fresh agreement reached with Ceska Sporitelna and the Czech Postal Service S-Cards will not be mandatory for payments and will only serve for identification purposes. Under the proposed amendment, people will be free to decide whether they want their benefits sent to the S-card account, a different account or by post.The only exemption concerns those suspected of exploiting the welfare benefits system.
Friday morning’s meeting between the leaders of the coalition parties brought no answers to the new appointments of defense and transportation ministers. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that he hopes to pick the candidates for the ministerial positions next week. He has previously indicated that if the Civic Democrats and the LIDEM party exchange the two posts, it is possible that LIDEM chairwoman Karolína Peake would become the Defense Minister. President Václav Klaus expressed doubts on Friday over Ms Peake’s suitability for this appointment.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a bill on Friday that legalizes the use of marijuana to alleviate some medical conditions. Patients will be able to purchase marijuana only with an electronic prescription from a doctor. The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president to come into effect.
President Václav Klaus has refused to sign an addendum to the Lisbon Treaty on the creation of a European Stability Mechanism. The president said on Friday that he considers the European Stabilization Mechanism to be ill-conceived and absurd. The addendum to the treaty which was agreed on at an EU summit last December has been ratified by both chambers of Czech Parliament, but the president’s refusal to sign it makes the Czech Republic the only EU member state not to have completed the ratification process. The Senate called on the president on Thursday to sign the addendum without further delay, noting that failure to comply with Parliament’s decision in this matter would be in violation of the constitution.
The academic senate of Prague’s Charles University has issued a statement saying that it disagrees with the current proposal for higher education reforms. According to the senate’s spokesperson the Education Ministry’s current proposal does not resolve even the basic problem of separating universities into scientific and professional ones. They also claim that the ministry has not allowed for enough time to negotiate possible changes. The academic community has rejected a number of proposals for reform s in the past few years. Thousands of students and academics protested against the reforms proposed by the former Education Minister Josef Dobeš this February.
The Czech GDP fell by 0.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, and by 1.3 percent year-on-year, the Czech Statistical Office confirmed on Friday. This means the Czech economy has been in recession since the end of last year, which some analysts say equates them to the most indebted south European countries like Greece and Spain.