The head of the country’s anti-mafia police unit, Robert Šlachta, has defended a recent raid at the Office of the Government, reacting to criticism that it was theatrical or excessive. The raid, part of an extended anti-graft operation, led to the arrest of the prime minister’s chief-of-sfaff and others in connection with an unprecedented spying and corruption scandal. The prime minister resigned several days later, leading to the government’s collapse. Speaking on a Sunday TV debate programme, Mr Šlachta denied some reports in the media that police at the Office of the Government had worn balaclava masks, or used a handheld battering ram. Earlier in the week, Justice Minister Pavel Blažek promised a review of the raid, the results of which should be known in several weeks.
A mock cross-country skiing race was held for the 13th time in Jablonec nad Nisou on Saturday, with 67 participants donning warm ski outfits to celebrate the summer. The head organizer, Pavel Haufer, said conditions were ideal but expressed regret that a heat wave that hit the country earlier in the week hadn’t lasted. The Czech news agency reported that some “racers” wore different costumes: one of them wore a Sherlock Holmes outfit – complete with the fictional detective's pipe.
In related news, the centre-right Civic Democrats have promised they will back a candidate from TOP 09 to become the next speaker of the lower house if President Zeman names coalition hopeful Miroslava Němcová prime minister designate. The president is to announce his decision on Tuesday. Representatives agreed in talks held on Saturday evening that voting on the next speaker would precede a confidence vote on the next government. If Ms Nemcová becomes prime minister she will head a renewed centre-right coalition until next May, when Czechs will vote in a national election.
President Miloš Zeman on Sunday indicated in the Talks from Lány radio
programme on Czech Radio that he would prefer to solve the current
political crisis by appointing a caretaker government. Mr Zeman said he
shortlisted four potential candidates for the prime minister's post.
The president pointed out he could not call early elections unless at least 120 MPs - a three-fifths constitutional majority - agreed on the dissolution of the lower house. Another alternative would be to allow the continuation of the present right-wing coalition under a new prime minister. He also mentioned the possibility of naming the chairman of the strongest opposition party, the Social Democrats, prime minister. But the party's leader Bohuslav Sobotka has said he would turn such an offer down. He called the final possibility, of appointing an interim government, "realistic". The president is to announce his final decision at Prague Castle at 3 P.M. Tuesday.
A commemorative ceremony was held on Saturday in the memory of Czech actor Radovan Lukavský, who died in 2008. The ceremony was held at Prague’s Olšany cemetery; a plaque was also unveiled outside the home where he lived for more than 50 years. Several dozen people took part in the ceremony including the actor Petr Kostka, actress Taťjana Medvecká, and director and actor Jan Kačer. Mr Lukavský gained renown for his Hamlet at the National Theatre and for other stage and film roles.
The leader of the Social Democratic Party, Bohuslav Sobotka, and deputy party leader Michal Hašek met with the president on Saturday evening at his residence in Lány to discuss ways out of the current government crisis. The Social Democrats repeated they were only in favour of early elections as a solution and were against a caretaker government or a continuation of the centre-right coalition under a new prime minister. The party leaders informed Miloš Zeman they will begin looking for the support of at least 120 MPs needed to dissolve the lower house to pave the way for early elections.
The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Boston Bruins 3:1 on Saturday night to put them ahead 3:2 in the Stanley Cup Final. The club only needs to win one more game to clinch the series and win the championship. Both clubs feature the talents of Czech players – including Jaromír Jágr who is seeking his third Cup. No matter who wins, the famous trophy will travel to the Czech Republic later this year, according to a tradition in which players are allowed to have it for a day. The Bruins will be hoping to stave off elimination on Monday.
Twenty-two people were detained at an anti-Roma demonstration held by right-wing extremists in Duchcov on Saturday, where attendees clashed with riot police. Initial reports had stated a lower number. During the clash, stones and bottles were thrown and police used tear gas and a water cannon to break up the crowd. One of the officers went down in the fighting and had to be rescued by colleagues. Five people, including two officers, were injured. The demonstration was organised by the ultra right-wing Workers Party for Social Justice; the clash broke out when extremists tried to cross a police line separating them from Romanies and their supporters who had come out to protest.
In related news, leaders from the leftist opposition are meeting with Mr Zeman on Saturday: the Social Democrats and the Communists are expected to renew their call for early elections. Polls suggest that those would most favour the opposition Social Democrats; according to a survey released on Friday, their rivals the Civic Democrats would face an historic defeat if the elections were held now. Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes suggests that the president on Tuesday could confer the task of forming a new government to Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka. He, however, made clear earlier that he would turn down such an offer. The Social Democrats want to form the next government based on election results.
Two new paths for cyclists will be added in the city of Plzeň within the Greenways projects thanks to EU funds. Pedestrian, cycling, and rollerblading have been expanded along the city’s four rivers since 2006. By the end of 2014 an additional 1.7 kilometres will be added at the cost of 27 million crowns the Plzeň’s Mayor Martin Baxa said.
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