Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka should hand in the government’s resignation on Thursday in the afternoon, the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčaček announced on Wednesday. Sobotka announced the government’s resignation on Tuesday saying that he could not continue in a government with finance minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš. Sobotka said public trust in the government had been undermined by Babiš’ failure to explain his so-called one crown bonds and clear suspicion they were a tax fraud and answer questions about other financial dealings surrounding his agro-chemical company Agrofert. After Wednesday’s regular government meeting, agriculture minister Marian Jurečka said the government’s resignation might not take effect until the middle of May. A series of consultations started between president Miloš Zeman and politicians on Wednesday.
The leader of the junior Czech coalition government party, the Christian Democrats, Pavel Bělobrádek, has said the party is prepared to see out the term of the current government even though it has resigned. He added that early elections was not an ideal solution. The future of the government is currently at stake following the announcement on Tuesday by prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka that he would submit its resignation by the end of the week because he could not continue with Andrej Babiš as finance minister because of his conflicts of interests and failure to explain financial deals.
ANO chief Andrej Babiš is due to hold talks with President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday. The meeting was scheduled before Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats made the surprise announcement that his government would hand in it its resignation this week; however, the situation will dominate the meeting. Mr. Babiš said on Tuesday that the next move was the president’s. The latter is obliged by the constitution to accept the resignation of a cabinet but there is no deadline for doing so. The leader of junior coalition partners the Christian Democrats also says the matter is in the president’s hands. Pavel Bělobrádek has asked to meet Mr. Zeman on Thursday.
Czech airports will be guarded by around 220 more police than hitherto under a Ministry of Interior proposal approved by the government on Wednesday. Most of the extra police, around 200, will be directed to Prague’s Václav Havel airport with around two dozen sent to smaller regional airports such as Pardubice, Brno, Karlovy Vary, and Ostrava. The cost of the extra police is expected to run to around 116 million crowns a year.
Police swooped on Wednesday on the headquarters of the Czech Football Association at Prague’s Strahov stadium. The action was confirmed by football association spokesman Michal Jurman. Police were reported by the Czech Press Agency to be searching offices with the staff excluded in a nearby restaurant. Police later said the swoop was connected with an investigation of suspected funding fraud at the education ministry in which three people have been charged. The web site of daily Sport said that the football association head, Miroslav Pelta, was one of those arrested. Police also visited his Jablonec club in the north of the country. Pelta's lawyer later said he had not been charged but had cooperated with police in teling them where to find documents.
Czech defence minister Martin Stropnický has said his US counterpart, James Mattis, praised the performance and reliability of Czech army contingents in foreign missions. Mattis also applauded the Czech participation in the current Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Stropnický started a working visit to the US on Tuesday. The issue of Czech defense spending, currently hovering around 1.0 percent of GDP and way below the NATO target of 2.0 percent of GDP was raised in the bilateral talks. The Czechs have promised to reach the NATO goal by 2025. The purchase of 12 multi-functional army helicopters for the Czech Army, with US supplier Bell a likely contender for the contract, was also discussed.
With Bohuslav Sobotka’s radical decision to hand in the resignation of the government over questions surrounding the financial dealings of ANO Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, the Social Democrat prime minister has begun a risky game with no clear outcome, editorials in the Czech media agree. Hospodářské noviny described the step as the biggest chess game of Mr. Sobotka’s career, saying there was a considerable chance it would be his last. Respekt said the situation increased the significance of President Zeman; however, he himself is facing an election and may be more cautious than in the past, its author said. Mladá fronta Dnes (the property of Mr. Babiš but now in a trust fund) described the PM’s step as grandiose nonsense.
The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has opened a new embassy in the Zambian capital Lusaka. The official opening took place in the presence of visiting Czech Minister of Agriculture Marian Jurecka. The foreign ministry took the decision to open the embassy last December. Zambia will be one of the Czech Republic’s priority countries for development cooperation from 2018.
The weather is expected to be cloudy Thursday with showers in the west and centre of the country. Top daytime temperatures will range between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius.
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