According to the latest poll by the PPM Factum agency, the Social Democrats are still leading among the parties running in the general elections in two weeks, but the gap between them and the second strongest Communist party has narrowed to around 5 percentage points. The poll has Social Democrats at 22.8 percent in October, the Communist Party at 17.1 and in the right-of-center TOP 09 party in third place with 13.2 percent, though the newcomer ANO 2011 is trailing them closely with 12.1 percent. The latest poll, which was carried out between September 30 and October 10, shows that the Citizens’ Rights Party – Zemanites may not get enough votes to get into parliament.
Less than two weeks before polls open in an early general election, campaigning in the country’s public media took off on Monday. Public broadcasters Czech Television and Czech Radio begin airing clips supplied by 24 parties and groups running for office. Czech Radio is broadcasting minute-long clips on three of its stations, while Czech TV is airing 30-second clips on channels One, Two and 24. Each broadcaster will in total air 14 hours of parties’ election messages. Campaigning in the public media will end on October 23, two days before the election.
At a meeting on Monday, the prime ministers of the four Visegrad Group countries – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland – confirmed plans to form a common military unit by 2016. The V4 battlegroup would have around 3,000 troops from all four member countries and would be ready to join EU rapid-reaction units if necessary. The Czech Republic is planning to contribute up to 800 soldiers and three transport helicopters. By creating the joint battlegroup, the Visegrad countries are hoping to save resource, while creating fulfilling their obligations to the EU.
In the last two months, the prices of potatoes in the Czech Republic have gone up by two-thirds and more, compared to the same period last year. According to a report released by the Czech Statistics Office on Monday, prices will remain high this year due to a record low harvest. The total potato harvest this season will be 20.2 percent less than last year’s, while compared to the 10-year average, it will most likely be a third lower. For the first time in Czech history (since 1993), the total harvest will be lower than 600 thousand tones. A Czech resident on average eats 70 kilograms of potatoes a year. Adverse weather conditions have also resulted in lower potato harvests in neighboring Poland and Germany.
Czech nurses have warned of staff shortages that might affect the quality of health care. According to a poll released by the Czech Association of Nurses on Monday, some 81 percent of nurses said that due to overwork, they could not provide adequate care to their patients. Around 55 percent of the nurses polled also complained about a lack of medical material which is acquired on the basis of price rather than quality. Some 80 percent of nurses also said they felt they were not rewarded adequately for their work.
The state prosecutor supervising the Budínka case, which concerns the remains of German residents who were allegedly killed at the end of World War Two near the town of Dobronín, announced on Monday that the case is suspended and will not be prosecuted at this point. A mass grave containing the remains of 13 local Germans was discovered in 2010. The police and a team of anthropologists investigated the allegations that the victims were violently murdered by local residents in the days following the end of World War Two. Their findings were sent to the surviving family members of the victims in Germany earlier this year, but no legal actions have been filed.
The general director of TV Nova, one of the top commercial television stations in the Czech Republic, Jan Andruško will be stepping down from his post. The news was reported by the Tyden.cz server on Monday morning, though it is not clear if Mr. Andruško has resigned, or if he was dismissed by TV Nova’s owners at Central European Media Enterprises (CME). The company has yet to comment on the staff change. Long-time president and general director of CME, Adrian Sarbu, announced he was resigning in August. As of January he will be replaced by Christoph Mainusch and Michael Del Nin from Time Warner, which has a majority stake in the company.
The Anticorruption Endowment Fund has increased the maximum financial award for exposing corruption with wide-reaching economic consequences or of highly reputable nature to two million crowns. Previously, the maximum award was one million crowns. The fund was set up by the billionaire and anti-corruption advocate Karel Janeček. The first lower awards for exposing corruption were given out in 2011.
A painting by the one of the leading Czech modernist painters, Jan Zrzavý, was sold for three million crowns at an auction at the European Arts auction house in Prague on Sunday. The painting entitled ‘Red Boat’ was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1948. Bidding for the painting began at 1.8 million crowns. The ‘Red Boat’ was the most expensive piece sold at the Sunday auction. The most expensive painting by Zrzavý, entitled ‘Mountainous Landscape’ was sold in 2009 for more than 12 million crowns.