Police wiretaps of MP David Rath and others implicating them in corruption are admissible as evidence in court, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. Mr. Rath, who was also governor of the Central Bohemia Region at the time of his arrest in May, and his co-accused contested the validity of the recordings at the Constitutional Court, which rejected their appeal, the newspaper wrote. The former health minister and two associates have been charged with corruption involving millions of crowns and are expected to appear in court in the New Year.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has questioned the wisdom of the mooted appointment of Karolina Peake to the post of defence minister. Mr. Klaus said on Friday that he did not believe that burly soldiers would not accept such a “little girl” (“dívenka”) as head of the army, or that the leader of the coalition’s smallest party LIDEM could become an expert on the army overnight. Mrs. Peake said she would try to persuade the president that she wasn’t a fragile little girl, adding that ministries were usually headed by politicians, not always experts in the given field. Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said he will announce the names of new defence and transport ministers next week.
Mr. Klaus, who steps down as president after two terms in March, also slammed the introduction of a direct presidential vote as populist nonsense that would come back to haunt its backers. It was a mistake to think the public would choose his successor, he said, it was actually the media who would select the president and the public would merely ratify their choice in two rounds of voting set to take place on the second and third weekends of January. The president said the big parties were already aware that they had scored an own goal by supporting a direct vote, a change which had been discussed for many years before being approved by Parliament in the summer.
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.