Czech President Miloš Zeman will formally dissolve the lower house of Parliament on August 28, according to the internet news site Parlamentní listy. The Chamber of Deputies supported a motion to disband on Tuesday this week in the wake of a drawn-out political crisis. The president must now call an early election within 60 days. He is expected to call the vote for Oct. 25 and 26, a term that he pre-announced some time ago as highly likely. The election date will be announced at a news conference on Friday.
The country’s biggest bank, Česká Spořitelna has reported problems with its internet banking service which reportedly affected thousands of clients who use the mobile operator T-mobile. The service was reportedly disrupted between Wednesday mid-day and late Thursday morning. It is now fully functional but according to the bank’s spokesperson an increased number of banking orders in the wake of the fall-out may cause a slight delay in the processing of requests.
The chairman of the Communist Party, Vojtěch Filip, has said that in the event of a strong left-wing showing in the early general elections his party would push for a referendum on the law on restitution of church property. The law on church restitutions was passed last year by the former centre-right coalition and has been unsuccessfully challenged in court by Social Democratic senators. The Social Democrats, who are also dissatisfied with the scope of the restitution, say they would prefer to reach an amicable agreement with church representatives.
Anti-corruption police have finished questioning Prague councillors in connection with what independent auditors have described as vastly overpriced contracts for OpenCard public transport cards. The case will now proceed with the questioning of witnesses which is expected to last until mid-September. The police suspect ten present and former councillors from TOP 09 and the Civic Democratic Party of abuse of office and violating public procurement rules. Charges could be levelled within a matter of weeks. Prague mayor Tomáš Hudeček has already stated that should charges be brought against him he would resign immediately. Half of the city council might have to do likewise.
The Czech Republic may once again start topping up the pensions of Czechs who worked for Slovak firms prior to the split of Czechoslovakia and now have lower pensions. The Czech Republic started topping-up the pensions of approximately 10,000 citizens who fall into this category in 2008 but then stopped the practice in 2011 in reaction to an EU Court of Justice verdict which said it was discriminatory to people in other EU member states. The Czech Constitutional Court has since ruled that the EU court failed to take into account the specific conditions relating to the Czechoslovak divorce in 1993. An amendment to the law which would restore the practice of topping up pensions was approved by the Senate on Thursday and has yet to be signed by the president.
Dagmar Navrátilová, the deputy chairwoman of the liberal democratic party LIDEM has said that her party will most likely try to form a partnership with another party for the early elections. The founder and first chairwoman of the party, Karolina Peake, resigned from her post in early August due to differences of opinion with the other LIDEM MPs. One of the smallest parties in the outgoing Chamber of Deputies will meet on Thursday to decide on a strategy for the early elections, which are expected to be held at the end of October.
Czech arms producer Česká zbrojovka has stopped the delivery of CZ P-07 handguns to the Egyptian Interior Ministry. The company has a year-long contract to deliver 50 thousand handguns and hundreds of submachine guns for the police force in Egypt. Since the beginning of recent clashes between government forces and protesters, the non-profit organization Amnesty International has called on all countries exporting weapons to Egypt, which could be used by the police or military against protesters, to seize deliveries. Zbrojovka, which had already delivered at least 15 thousand handguns to the country, agreed to suspend the contract.
Irish singer Glen Hansard performed on the terrace at Prague Castle’s Riding School on Tuesday night. Hansard, who was promoting his first solo album Rhythm and Repose, was backed by members of The Frames, the band that he has led for over two decades. The musician, who is 43, won an Oscar with the Czech singer Markéta Irglová for the song Falling Slowly and has been a regular visitor to the Czech Republic for many years. Tuesday’s show, which is part of a new initiative to bring live music to Prague Castle, was sold out.
In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, unknown artists painted a monument to Soviet soldiers pink and wrote “Bulgaria is sorry!” in Czech and Bulgarian under it on Tuesday night. According to a Bulgarian server Dariknews, the artists did this on the 45th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces in order to underline the role of the Bulgarian armed forces in the invasion. The Bulgarian government was one of the strongest proponents of the invasion in 1968, and it was also one of the last countries involved to formally apologize after the regime change.
The Senate has rejected the candidacy of the chairman of Prague’s municipal court Jan Sváček for a seat on the Constitutional Court for the second time on Wednesday. Although president Miloš Zeman came to the Senate on Wednesday to personally support his candidate, Mr. Sváček received only 30 out of 75 votes, eight votes short of the needed majority. He had already been nominated by former president Václav Klaus, but failed to win support in the Senate last February.
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