Five MPs have quit the Christian Democrats, the fourth biggest grouping in the Czech lower house. Mirolsav Kalousek, Jan Husák, Ladislav Šustr, Vlasta Parkanová and Pavel Severa all said they were leaving the party on Tuesday. There are now eight MPs left in the deputies group of the Christian Democrats, which is headed by the party’s new leader Cyril Svoboda.
Mr Kalousek, who was finance minister in the last government, is planning to form a new centre-right party named TOP 09 to contest general elections in October. Meanwhile, the Czech News Agency reported that a number of Christian Democrat senators were also considering leaving the party.
Martin Bursík has resigned as leader of the Greens in the wake of a poor showing for the party in elections to the European Parliament at the weekend. The Green Party received just two percent of the vote, falling well short of the five-percent threshold needed to win any seats. Speaking after a five-hour meeting of the Greens’ leadership, Mr Bursík said he was taking personal responsibility for the party’s electoral failure. Deputy head Ondřej Liška has been named acting chairman and will lead the Greens into early elections in October.
The Green Party was for some time beset by internal divisions which culminated with some high-profile members leaving to form another Green group, who also did badly in the European elections.
The Czech economy is officially in recession, after GDP fell for the second consecutive quarter in the first three months of 2009. The economy shrank by 3.4 percent year-on-year in the quarter, the Czech Statistical Office said on Tuesday, after a revision confirmed its estimate from May. The poor figures have been blamed on a decline in the manufacturing sector; the Czech Republic is heavily dependent on the car industry. The Czech National Bank forecasts a 2.4 percent contraction for the whole of this year.
Meanwhile, consumer inflation hit a 28-month low in May: the 1.3 percent year-on-year inflation recorded last month was the lowest seen since January 2007, according to official data.
The caretaker Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, has given his endorsement to Jose Manuel Barroso’s bid to win a second term as president of the European Commission. The two met in Brussels on Tuesday ahead of a European Union summit in the city on June 18 and 19 that will be chaired by the Czech leader and make the appointment. Jan Fischer took over as Czech prime minister following the collapse of the Czech government half-way through the country’s presidency of the EU.
A Prague court has rejected a suit from Social Democrats chairman Jiří Paroubek aimed at winning an apology and financial compensation from Jan Kubice, a former head of the Czech police’s organised crime unit. Mr Paroubek said the so-called Kubice report, which was leaked to the media just before the last general elections, had harmed his party’s chances. The report suggested Mr Paroubek, who was then prime minister, the Interior Ministry and the head of the police were trying to influence investigations into serious crimes, including murder and large-scale embezzlement.
Twenty-seven Czech soldiers who had been serving at an airport in Kabul since December returned to the Czech Republic on Tuesday. The troops who have replaced them can look forward to tough times as elections will take place in Afghanistan during their tour, their commander Lieutenant Colonel Jiří Pluhař told reporters. The elections will lead to increased risks and a worsening of the overall security situation, he said. Some 480 Czech soldiers are currently serving with the ISAF peace mission in Afghanistan, while 100 more are taking part in anti-terrorism operations as part of the US-led operation Enduring Freedom.
Police have arrested several far-right extremists and carried out searches of their homes and cars. A spokesperson for the Brno regional authority told the website novinky.cz that the police had been acting under orders from a state attorney’s office in the Brno district. A lawyer who represents far-right activists quoted one of her clients as saying the arrests had been made in connection with internet web sites, articles and rock concerts.
Police in north Bohemia and north Moravia are to get special units dedicated to dealing with events involving political extremists, the head of the police in Ústí nad Labem, Oldřich Martinů, said on Tuesday. He said the number of events organised by extremists was expected to rise in future. Specialised riot police units only exist in Prague and south Moravia at present.
The leaders of all the parties in the Czech Parliament and both houses, all members of the government, Ombudsman Otakar Motejl and former president Václav Havel have signed a statement pledging to take a common stand against growing extremism and racism in the Czech Republic. The statement, which was presented by party leaders and Human Rights Minister Michael Kocáb, criticised the promotion of extremism, discrimination and racial, ethnic or social segregation.
The American actor, producer and director John Malkovich will be among the special guests at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, organisers announced on Tuesday. Malkovich, who has appeared in such movies as Dangerous Liaisons and Burn After Reading, will receive a Crystal Globe award for contribution to world cinema. The 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival takes place in the west Bohemian spa town from July 3 to 11.
The 1970s rock group The Eagles played to around 8,000 fans at Prague’s O2 Arena on Monday night; it was the band’s first performance in the Czech Republic. A line-up featuring founding members Don Henley and Glenn Frey played a series of hits from The Eagles’ repertoire, including their best known song Hotel California.
There should be clear spells with rain at times over the next few days. Temperatures are expected to reach up to 22 degrees Celsius.