The government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has fallen after losing a vote of no-confidence tabled by the opposition Social Democrats. The motion was carried by the bare minimum of 101 votes, when rebel Civic Democrat MPs Vlastimil Tlustý and Jan Schwippel and ex-Greens Věra Jakubková and Olga Zubová cast their votes with the 97 Social Democrat and Communist MPs in the lower house.
Prime Minister Topolánek said on Monday that if the government fell he would expect President Václav Klaus to charge him with forming a new government; if that failed, he would then push for fresh elections in the summer. Mr Topolánek has rejected the idea of a caretaker government. However, much remains unclear about what will follow Tuesday’s dramatic vote.
The fall of the government comes almost exactly halfway through the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the European Union. The prime minister told Czech Television he believed the presidency could function effectively, even without a stable government.
The three-party coalition government, made up of Mirek Topolánek’s Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, was appointed in January 2007.
The president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, is in the Czech capital for a two-day visit. Mr Yushchenko was welcomed to Prague Castle by President Václav Klaus on Tuesday morning. Speaking after their meeting, he said Kiev was glad to be invited to join the European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative, which is being launched within the Czech presidency of the bloc. However, he said Ukraine did not regard that as a substitute for actually becoming a member of the EU.
One of the highlights of Mr Yushchenko’s visit will be the unveiling of a statute to the great Ukrainian writer and artist Taras Shevchenko in Prague.
Police have arrested a 17-year-old in Nový Bydžov, east Bohemia who planned a bomb attack on his school and fellow pupils, the newspaper Deník reported. The youth, who has been remanded in custody since his arrest on Thursday, could face up to five years in jail if found guilty. Class-mates reported that he had behaved oddly and paid a great deal of attention to massacres in schools in other countries. Police are refusing to comment on the case, citing the suspect’s youth.
Four bidders have expressed interest in buying the state-owned carrier Czech Airlines, the Finance Ministry said. Three airlines are in the running for the 91.5-percent stake in CSA: Air France-KLM, Russia’s Aeroflot and a Czech consortium that includes the country’s biggest charter airline Travel Service. The fourth bid is from Odien AV III AS, a private equity fund of a financial company which is active in the region. Some commentators had expected more bids for Czech Airlines. The Czech government expects to choose a winner by the end of September, saying the privatisation could bring around CZK 3 billion into state coffers.
Fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejčíř could be extradited from South Africa for entering the country on a false passport, Hospodařské noviny reported. A spokesperson for the South African state attorney’s office told the newspaper the matter was still being investigated. The South African authorities have previously rejected a Czech government request for the extradition of Mr Krejčíř, who is wanted on charges of large scale fraud and conspiracy to murder.
Retail sales in the Czech Republic fell by 3.3 percent year-on-year in January, according to figures released on Tuesday. Analysts had expected a rather sharper fall, though one told the Czech News Agency the relatively positive result was due to a revision of older retail data by the Czech Statistics Office. Retail sales fell for four months in a row for the first time since the turn of 1998 and 1999.
Three Germans found guilty of giving the Hitler salute in a bar in Plzeň have been expelled from the Czech Republic. They were arrested after a far-right rock concert in the west Bohemian town on Saturday night. A judge barred the three, aged 20, 23 and 26, from returning to the country for a period of 30 months.
Interior Ministry inspectors uncovered 253 cases of crimes committed by police officers in 2008, a spokesperson said on Tuesday. That figure represents an increase of 15 percent on the previous year. The most common charge was abuse of office; others included traffic offences, insurance and loan fraud and accepting bribes.
Twenty-one trains will be delayed in the early hours of Sunday morning when the clocks go forward, a spokesperson for Czech Railways said. The change will mainly affect long-distance trains coming from Russia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
Goalkeeper Petr Čech has been named Czech footballer of the year for 2008. The Chelsea star, who is 26, also took the award three years ago. This time out Čech finished ahead of veteran midfielder Pavel Nedvěd of Juventus and Athletico Madrid defender Tomáš Ujfaluši. Karel Jarolím of Slavia Prague was named the Czech Republic’s manager of the year, while former Slavia striker Tomáš Necid took the young player of the year prize.
It should get warmer in the coming days, with temperatures reaching up to 9 degrees Celsius by the end of the week. Forecasters say it will be partly cloudy with sunny spells.