Rain has disrupted skiing in most centers in western and northern Bohemia on Saturday afternoon. Although most slopes still have around 50 centimeters of man-made snow, the wet conditions have made it impossible for skiers to continue skiing. Operators of ski centers are nevertheless expecting visitors to continue skiing during the Christmas holidays, as rain subsides.
Icy roads and continuing snow and sleet have been complication the situation on Czech roads since Saturday afternoon. On the pre-Christmas Sunday, otherwise known as the Golden Sunday, lorries and cars are standing in traffic on highways in Central and northern Bohemia and the Vysocina region. A number of cars have gone off the roads in a number of places. Authorities are warning drivers of more ice developing on the roads, and worsening visibility resulting from fog. In Brno, trains have been delayed because of snow clean-up on the tracks.
A three-vehicle accident was reported on the R6 highway after a high-speed police chase on Saturday evening. A police car was following a vehicle that was suspected as being stolen. The suspect’s car pushed the police vehicle into the divider. The police and the suspect’s car were two of the vehicles involved in the accident; five people were injured. The police officers used firearms during the chase and requested backup from the German police.
Former Education Minister Josef Dobeš said that he has the names of at least eight other MPs who would be willing to support the governing coalition in case it looses the support of the LIDEM party, daily Pravo reports. Many of the people Mr Dobeš mentioned would be somewhat controversial. Among them are Dobeš’s fellow former Public Affairs party members Kristýna Kočí, Jaroslav Škárka, Milan Šťovíček, and some MPs who have distanced themselves from the Civic Democrats because of various scandals. The former minister believes that the coalition should not fall, and in exchange for his support wants more support for sports and improvements in government administration.
President Václav Klaus on Friday signed into law government legislation that raises the two VAT rates by one percentage point to 15 and 21 percent, respectively. The legislation comes into force on January 1. The package also includes a seven-percent hike in income tax for high earners and cancels tax brakes for economically active retired people. The Czech government based the state budget for 2013 on revenues from the tax hikes; Mr Klaus signed it into law despite his objections; earlier this year he said raising taxes at a time of recession was an “economic suicide”. Analysts estimate that on average, the hikes will cost Czech families around 1,000 crowns each year.
President Klaus has temporarily put Prime Minister Petr Nečas in charge of the defence ministry. The move comes a day after Karolína Peake’s of the LIDEM party, from the post. Mr Nečas on Friday reinstated Vlastimil Picek to the position of first deputy minister; he said Mr Picek’s sacking by Ms Peake last week was a demonstration of “irresponsible dilettantism”, and said it was one of the reasons behind Ms Peake’s demise, after only eight days at the ministry.
The senior ruling Civic Democrats want to approach the coalition LIDEM group to discuss ways of saving the current government. After a meeting of Civic Democrat leadership on Friday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said negotiations with the LIDEM party could start early next month. Mr Nečas also said party leadership backed his decision to dismiss LIDEM leader Karolína Peake from the post of the defence minister, a move that triggered the latest government crisis. In a reaction to Ms Peake’s dismissal, the LIDEM party called on its two other government ministers to step down as of January 10.
In related news, chairwoman of the LIDEM group Karolína Peake told the news website lidovky.cz on Friday her party had no interest in remaining part of the coalition. Ms Peake said the prime minister should have thought about the government’s future earlier when there was still time for negotiations, adding no cooperation with the Civic Democrats was possible in the current format.
Reacting to the tension among coalition parties, the opposition Social Democrats on Friday called on Prime Minister Petr Nečas to initiate a vote of confidence in his government in the lower house. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said if Mr Nečas refuses to do so, his party would try and instigate a vote of no-confidence, a plan supported by another opposition group, Public Affairs. Meanwhile, the Communists have asked for government to step down and early elections be held in the earlier possible term.
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