Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told Parliament on Wednesday he had proof that last year’s presidential elections were manipulated by people close to the opposition Social Democrats. The prime minister said that the people behind the manipulation were the former head of the intelligence service Karel Randák and Petr Dimun, who is currently head of PR in the Social Democratic Party. Mr. Topolánek said he was prepared to submit the evidence at a closed session of the lower house.
President Vaclav Klaus won a second term in office in last year’s presidential elections, beating challenger Jan Švejnar, a liberal economist backed by the Social Democrats and the Greens. At the time, the coalition and opposition accused each other of arm-twisting and underhand practices. Several deputies and senators received anonymous threats in the mail and a Social Democrat MP was expelled from his deputies’ group for voting with the other side. President Klaus on Wednesday refused to comment on the prime minister’s remarks.
The Czech government on Tuesday temporarily withdrew two treaties on hosting a US missile defense radar from the lower house for fear that they could be rejected. The opposition Social Democrats were planning to force a vote on the treaties on Wednesday taking advantage of the absence of several coalition deputies. The decision highlighted the fragility of the centre-right government ahead of a vote of no-confidence next Tuesday. The vote was called by the main opposition party after it emerged that the ruling party had attempted to prevent Czech TV from broadcasting a report that would have discredited an independent MP who has been supportive of the ruling coalition.
During talks in Berlin on Wednesday, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg stressed the importance of the EU’s Eastern Partnership Programme to be launched in May. Addressing members of the Bundestag’s Foreign Relations Committee Mr. Schwarzenberg said it was important that the EU establish a working relationship with the former Soviet Republics in order to motivate them on the road to democracy. The Eastern Partnership Programme is a forum intended to facilitate visa agreements, free trade deals and strategic partnership agreements with a number of countries from Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. It does not imply future membership of the European Union. The partnership scheme will include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and Belarus.
A CSA passenger plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Hamburg airport on Wednesday after reporting engine problems. None of the twenty passengers and four member crew aboard the OK 547 Hamburg-Prague flight were injured. The pilot of the two-engine propeller plane reported engine problems and asked to turn back for an emergency landing after twenty minutes in the air. The plane is undergoing a thorough technical check to determine the cause of the problem. All twenty passengers were taken to Prague on the next flight out.
The Czech Republic is to sell some of its redundant carbon credits to Japan in a deal amounting to ten billion crowns. Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursík who was in Tokyo to arrange the sale, said the Czech Republic had received favourable conditions and the deal would be signed in Prague on March 30th. The proceeds from the sale will go to the State Fund for the Environment and will be used to support environment-friendly heating methods and co-finance the insulation of houses. The Czech Republic has redundant carbon credits thanks to a steep reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The country pledged to reduce emissions by 8 percent but has managed to effect a 25 percent cut since 1990.
Czech citizens from Carpathian Ruthenia may be eligible to receive compensation for property they lost in 1945, after the Czech lower house passed the respective bill in its second reading on Wednesday, sending it to a final vote. According to the bill Czechs who lost their property when Carpathian Ruthenia was annexed to the Soviet Union in 1945 would be able to receive up to two million crowns each in compensation if they can prove their ownership rights. Around 400 people are expected to stake a claim which would cost the state budget 800 million crowns at the most. If the bill is passed compensation payments would be made as of 2010.
Police have filed charges against a judge who was secretly filmed by reporters while accepting a bribe. Judge Pavel Nagy has been accused of bribery, abuse of power and fraud for which he could be sentenced up to twelve years in prison. A team of investigative reporters set out to trap him after one of his clients complained that he had asked for money in return for a verdict in her favour. Reporters discovered that the judge was deep in debt.
A ban on filming and interviewing politicians in certain parts of the Czech lower house has angered reporters and divided politicians. According to a set of new regulations introduced, a TV or radio reporter can ask an MP for an interview anywhere on the premises but the interview must be conducted at a new press centre set up for this purpose. Reporters claim the measure is aimed at making politicians less accessible, since reporters will no longer be able to accost them in the corridor and tape their immediate reactions to uncomfortable questions.
Former Czech Republic and Austria coach Karel Bruckner is retiring from the game after over 50 years in football. Bruckner, who has coached since 1973, said his decision was final. It comes just weeks after he resigned as coach of the Austrian national team. The former Czech Republic tactician was set to retire after his side crashed out of Euro 2008 last summer, but he accepted the Austria job to get over the loss against Turkey during the tournament held in Austria and Switzerland. Bruckner led his former Czech Republic side to qualification for three major tournaments since taking over in 2001. He ensured his team reached Euro 2004, World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008, before taking over Austria.
A cold front moving across the Czech Republic is expected to bring an abrupt end to the mild spell. Day temperatures should once again drop to around zero degrees and snow showers are forecast around the country.