Deputies elected last month took part in a constituent session of the Czech lower house on Monday afternoon. The session was chaired by Miroslava Němcová, who was speaker of the house during the last parliament; one of the first tasks of the new lower house is to choose her successor. Jan Hamáček of the Social Democrats, who came first in October’s elections, is expected to win the post. The average age of the new intake of MPs is just under 50, making this the oldest parliament since the foundation of the Czech Republic. Thirty-nine of the deputies are women – five fewer than after elections in 2010.
The Social Democrats, leading talks on forming a new government, say they will present potential partners ANO 2011 and the Christian Democrats with a coalition proposal within several days. Party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka made clear that the parties would then assess the contents, before meeting to discuss or iron out concrete details. He also said that the parties should agree on candidates for the post of speaker of the lower house and the deputy speakers. At the weekend, the Social Democrats and ANO 2011 reportedly made progress on issues including taxes, which had been a sticking point.
The Social Democrats have admitted there is a possibility they could support an initiative to scrap a screening law adopted in the 1990s to prevent collaborators with the communist-era secret police from holding high office. On Monday, the party’s chairman Bohuslav Sobotka suggested that the legislation had served its purpose and that there was no real reason for its continuation. Members of government post-1989 have all required a clean slate under the bill and the centre-right TOP 09 and Civic Democrats are in favour of the bill remaining in force. There is speculation that the head of ANO 2011 Andrej Babiš, as finance minister, would fail screening as he was listed in StB records. The magnate denies having ever collaborated with the secret police and is suing to clear his name in neighbouring Slovakia, where the evidence originated.
A Johannesburg court has okayed Czech businessman Radovan Krejčíř’s transfer to hospital, after his lawyer warned his client was in danger of renal failure. Mr Krejčíř was arrested three days ago by South African police on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder and was being held. It is unclear, whether the Johannesburg court on Monday will also decide on potential bail. Initially on Monday, the hearing was delayed by more than an hour as maximum security was put in place at the courthouse. Mr Krejčíř has had repeated bouts with the law in South Africa; in his homeland Czech Republic, he was found guilty of tax evasion and embezzlement; he fled the country after escaping during a police search of his home.
Billionaire businessman Andrej Babiš, the head of ANO 2011 which came second in last month’s elections, has confirmed that Zbyněk Průša, the head of the DEZA chemical firm would head of the board of directors of Agrofert, the parent company. Babiš, who owns 100 percent of the chemical and agriculture firm and employs some 27,000 people through numerous firms, could be named the country’s next minister of finance – if ANO 2011, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats agree on a coalition. Mr Průša confirmed that if he received the offer he would accept; it is unclear whether he would also be the company’s general director once Mr Babiš joined the government.
President Miloš Zeman’s health has reportedly continued to improve roughly a month after the head-of-state suffered a knee injury. The Health Ministry posted news of the president’s progress online, saying that Mr Zeman had been given a more compact orthopaedic device and that he had been recommended to begin trying to walk with only one crutch. The head-of-state has been out of the public eye since suffering the injury, meeting privately with staff and politicians and communicating with the media only infrequently by phone.
Owners of luxury cars who were part of a motorcade that drove through a protected area of Šumava National Park in September each received a fine of 4,000 crowns, commercial broadcaster TV Nova reports. According to the station, a highly-placed member of the police presidium was the only one not penalized, on the grounds that he could only be punished by his direct superior. The park’s representatives originally suggested that fines could go as high as 50,000 per driver. None of those fined has appealed the decision.
The Czech AIDS Help Society, which runs a Prague facility called The Lighthouse in Karlín helping HIV-positive patients, is offering free testing for HIV from Monday to Friday this week. The move, aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS and prompting individuals who might not otherwise get tested to do so, leads up to World AIDS Day observed on December 1.
Czech football players, goalie Petr Čech of Chelsea and midfielder Tomáš Rosický, who plays for Arsenal, will have a chance to qualify for the next round of the Champions League on Tuesday. Both clubs currently top their respective groups. Chelsea only need to draw against FC Basel in Group E to advance, while the Gunners will be looking to beat Marseille in Group F to move to the next round.
With temperatures falling markedly, forecasters are warning of ice and snow drifts on Monday, particularly in parts of the eastern province of Moravia. Some 20 centimetres of snow is expected to fall in mountainous areas of the Czech Republic between now and Tuesday morning. Motorists are being warned to drive carefully in the Olomouc, Zlín and Moravia-Silesia regions.