The country’s MPs will vote to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies next
week; the Social Democrats, the Communists, and TOP 09 are expected to
agree on an extraordinary session. The vote, which could take place early
as Tuesday should open the path to early elections within 60 days. The
option of early elections came to the forefront on Wednesday after it
became apparent that the Rusnok cabinet would continue in power even if it
failed in gain a majority in a confidence vote. President Zeman had said
earlier in a speech to lawmakers that he would leave the cabinet in place
until a criminal investigation into a scandal which brought down the
previous government wrapped up.
The collapse of 101-majority on the centre-right also raised the chance of early elections; previously the centre-right coalition led by Miroslava Němcová maintained it could form a government if given the opportunity. Two members within her party, however, abstained in the confidence vote. On Wednesday evening, the Rusnok cabinet received 93 votes in favour and 100 against.
In related news, Karolína Peake resigned on Thursday as the leader of LIDEM, which was the smallest party under the previous government. Mrs Peake, who left the Chamber ahead of Wednesday’s confidence vote, said she had decided to step down as she held different views on basic issues from most of the grouping’s seven other MPs. LIDEM formed in April last year as a splinter group from the Public Affairs party, which rose to prominence quickly but quit the coalition after becoming embroiled in scandal.
Jan Florián, one of two MPs who broke Civic Democrat ranks during Wednesday’s confidence vote, has quit the party. In a statement released to the media and posted on facebook, the MP laid blame for his party’s loss of voters with former chairman Petr Nečas as well as former Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda. He slammed both for, in his view, leading the party to the brink, while praising former leaders Mirek Topolánek and Václav Klaus. Both Florián and MP Tomáš Úlehla were expelled from the Civic Democratic Party’s deputies’ club on Wednesday evening in response to their actions.
Deputies’ club leader for TOP 09 Petr Gazdík has said that his party will not consider a coalition with the Social Democrats after early elections are held. He told journalists on Thursday that TOP 09 aimed to remain a reliable party on the centre-right. Mr Gazdík also charged that the Social Democrats were under full sway of the country’s president, Miloš Zeman, and he said his party would fight to defend the country’s parliamentary system, which some critics see as increasingly threatened by the president. On Wednesday, TOP 09 deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek argued that the president was trying to change the system to an autocratic one.
The Social Democrats – like other parties in the Czech Republic – have begun preparing for elections to be held either in October or early November. According to ČTK, the party will pick candidates in August and present a policy programme in September. The party will run its own campaign which its leader said would be positive and transparent. Polls for months have suggested that the Social Democrats have a major advantage and are likely to win. The party also won in 2010 but was unable to find a viable partner to form a government.
An undisclosed source in the leadership of the right-of-centre Civic
Democratic Party has told the Czech News Agency that the party should be
jointly-led in the run-up to early elections by acting chairman Martin
and former candidate for prime minister Miroslava Němcová, who could be
the face of the Civic Democrats in the upcoming election campaign. The
source also told the agency that the party would strive for non-party
candidates to head ballots. Previously, former education minister Petr
Fiala was discussed.
The Civic Democrats, following Wednesday’s confidence vote, are seen as having fallen into their deepest crisis in 22 years of existence. Polls have repeatedly shown them losing ground to TOP 09 on the political right. Some political analysts have suggested that only defeat in the election will release the party from the clutches of so-called party godfathers long said to be pulling the strings from behind-the-scenes.
The trial of former regional governor David Rath and ten others accused of corruption continued on Thursday with testimony from state witness Ivana Salačová, who maintained that two key defendants, Kateřina Pancová and her partner Petr Kott, asked for a bribe of 20 to 24 million crowns in connection with the reconstruction of Buštěhrad Chateau (costing 200 million). Originally, Mr Rath was to have completed his testimony on Thursday, but asked for a postponement after two hours due to fatigue. The day before he had spoken for four. The court postponed the continuation of his testimony until Friday.
The lower house on Thursday passed legislation put forward by the Senate effectively nixing the controversial S-Card system which was to have streamlined the payment of social benefits for recipients. The system is expected to come to an end later this year; pensioners, welfare recipients or others will receive payments to their account or be able to cash in cheques at their local post office as was the case before. The legislation will now head to the upper house.
The Czech league title holders Viktoria Plzeň beat the Estonian side Kalju 6:2 in the second leg of their Champions League third qualification round tie on Wednesday night. Plzeň had a 4:0 advantage after the first leg in Tallinn and made light work of the visitors, with captain Pavel Horváth scoring a hat-trick that included two fine long-range strikes as the hosts notched up a 10:2 aggregate score-line. There is one more round of qualification for club soccer’s most prestigious competition, though defeat comes with a place in the second-tier tournament the Europa League, guaranteeing Plzeň a place in European competition.
Football’s Chelsea – with goalie Petr Čech – lost to Real Madrid on Wednesday in the International Champions Cup in Miami. The pre-season game saw four goals in all – two of which were scored by Real star Cristiano Ronaldo. His first was a swerving free-kick from 23 metres. After the match, Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho – who coached Real until June – shrugged off the loss. He said it was positive that his players could focus on mistakes they had made.