Social Democrat ministerial nominees have hit back at president Miloš
Zeman’s attacks on their suitability for office. Jiří Dienstbier,
earmarked to be the minister for human rights, said that the head of state
was totally off track when he suggested that he would not be able to
fulfill his functions because he had been selected to head the party’s
campaign for upcoming European Parliament elections and would be
campaigning from February onwards. The party is seeking someone else to
head the campaign after he was offered the Cabinet post, Dienstbier said.
The head of state announced Friday that he would name Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister on January 17 but that the Cabinet’s formation was not likely till the end of the month. Zeman suggested Sobotka cast around for other ministerial candidates and warned that he was not obliged to automatically accept nominations for ministers.
Jan Mládek, the proposed minister for industry and trade and ostensible object of president Zeman’s suggestions that one cabinet candidate could be a security risk after failing to obtain clearance from the National Security Authority (NBÚ), has also defended himself. Mládek said his last clearance process was stopped when he started working in the private sector and it was no longer required. Mládek has previously been a minister of agriculture and deputy minister of finance. Fellow Social Democrat nominee Milan Chovanec said he did not use the law degree he earned under a controversial fast track process from the scandal hit Plzeň Law Faculty.
Czech constitutional law expert Jan Kysela has rounded on what he describes as head of state Miloš Zeman’s expansive and interventionist interpretation of his role. Kysela added that political parties should stand up to the president and put him back in the place allotted to him in the latest battle over Cabinet nominations. Kysela said a series of acts and statements by president Zeman suggest he is out of step with the role intended for the head of state under the constitution. Social Democrat deputy chairman and foreign ministry nominee, Lubomír Zaorálek, has warned Zeman will create a quasi presidential system if he wins the latest battle.
Christian Democrat and Civic Democrat candidates will go head to head in Zlín and Uherské Hradištĕ next week to fill the senate seat vacated by Tomio Okamura. The two candidates gained the most votes after polling closed on Saturday without anyone obtaining more than half the votes cast. The Christian Democrat won 23.36% of votes with his ODS rival on 16.52%. Okamura was elected to the lower house of parliament in elections last October.
The Czech Republic’s biggest manufacturing exporter, Škoda Auto, fell short of the million car sales mark in 2013. The car maker announced sales of 920,800 for the year, down by 18,400 on its figure for 2012. Western Europe still represents its biggest single market with around four out of every 10 cars sold. The remainder of sales are broadly divided between central and eastern Europe on one hand and China on the other.
Top Czech tennis singles hopes for the upcoming Australian Open have been given relatively easy opening draws. Men’s singles seventh seed, Tomáš Berdych, has been drawn in the first round against Kazakh Aleksandr Nedovyesov, who is ranked 92 in the world. Petra Kvitová, seeded six, will play Thai Luksika Kumkhum, ranked 87, in the women’s singles. Czech Klara Zakopalová has the chance of a famous scalp in her first round match against local favourite Samantha Stosur, seeded 17. The first Grand Slam event of the year starts on January 13.
Czech speed skater Karolína Erbanová took second place in the European championship 500 meters combined event in Hamar, Norway, on Saturday. The Czech appeared on track for her fifth gold medal in the event before a fall just ahead of the finishing line. That error meant she finished just three hundredths of a second behind first place Dutch rival, Ireen Wust.
President Miloš Zeman has announced he would appoint Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister next Friday. At a press briefing in Prague the president said Mr. Sobotka had fulfilled the task set, which was to put together a government which would have a stable majority in the lower house. As regards the appointment of the new government, Mr. Zeman said he believed this could take place by the end of January on condition that the lower house approved the draft civil service law in its first reading. This particular condition was given in view of the fact that the nominee for finance minister in the new government, ANO leader Andrej Babiš, has been unable to produce a clean screening certificate proving that he did not actively collaborate with the communist secret service. The new civil service law which is expected to replace the screening law would not address the issue.
The president cited objections to several ministerial nominees, such as not being properly qualified for the job or getting a suspect fast-track law degree at the Pilsen faculty of law within just nine months, which refers to the nominee for interior minister Milan Chovanec. Mr. Zeman said he hoped the prime minister in waiting would address his objections.
The country’s future prime minister met with President Zeman later on Friday to hand over a copy of the coalition agreement signed on January 6th. After the meeting Mr. Sobotka said they had further discussed the prime minister’s reservations regarding some ministerial nominees, but that he did not consider those objections serious enough to warrant a change of plan.