Czech MPs have approved an amendment to the constitution that will make it possible to hold early general elections, most probably in early November. The move follows a decision by the Constitutional Court, which on Thursday upheld a complaint by MP Miloš Melčák against a one-off law passed in order to facilitate elections on October 9 and 10. The new amendment introduces a permanent change to the constitution that could be used whenever the lower house wishes to dissolve itself without going through lengthy procedures. It is expected to be approved by the Senate on Friday evening or on Saturday, and then to be signed into law by President Václav Klaus. Under a plan agreed by the main political parties, the Chamber of Deputies will dissolve itself on Tuesday and the president will call elections on November 6 and 7.
However, those plans could be scuppered by Mr Melčák. He hinted in the lower house on Friday that he could to go back to the Constitutional Court with the new amendment, once it enters into force.
The Czech Republic has had an interim government since May. There are concerns that a failure to form a new political government in the near future would have serious consequences for the country’s budget for next year; if a 2010 budget is not approved in time, a provisional budget without needed spending cuts would enter into force.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, says he understands Slovakia’s position in the current crisis in relations between it and Hungary. Mr Klaus made the comments after a meeting of the presidents of the Visegrad Four countries at Sopot in Poland on Friday. Speaking about a language law adopted by Slovakia which its Hungarian minority believes is aimed against it, Mr Klaus said he understood why it had arisen. The Czech president said he had noticed what he called Hungary’s long-term enlargement ambitions, adding that he was opposed to any change to the post-war arrangement of Europe, a possible reference to Czechoslovakia’s Beneš decrees, which are a source of rancour for Hungarians.
Speaking in Prague on Friday, the Dalai Lama said it was not possible to force China into becoming democratic – rather such change should come from within, he said. The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader made the comments at a two-day conference on peace in Asia, which was also attended by a leader of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, Rebija Kadeer. She said the international community should pressure Beijing into improving human rights. Former Czech president Václav Havel, whose Forum 2000 organised the conference, said it was intended to show support for human rights activists in China, Tibet, North Korea, Burma and elsewhere in the region.
Czech industrial output fell by 18.2 percent year-on-year in July, following a revised 11.8 percent drop in June, according to official data released on Friday. The fall in output has been attributed to a drop in the production of motor vehicles and various kinds of machinery and metal products. Meanwhile, output in the construction sector fell by 4.4 percent in July, after a slight rise the previous month.
A doctor in Brno has received an eight-year jail term and a half-million-crown fine for fraud involving bogus sick notes. Dr Alena Kubáčová was found guilty of fraudulently issuing sick notes to a number of accomplices, six of whom also received prison terms ranging from three to 10 years. Those involved were drawing sickness benefits as well as receiving regular pay. A police investigation also uncovered irregularities at three firms which employed the fake patients – they were profitable, despite having sickness absence rates of 80 percent.
After seven years of increases in the birth-rate, there was a fall in the number of children born in the Czech Republic in the first half of 2009. According to official figures released on Friday, 58,000 babies were born between the start of January and the end of June, 1,600 fewer than in the same period last year. The total population of the Czech Republic grew by over 20,000 to just under 10.5 million in the first half of 2009.
A Polish miner died as a result of a tremor felt in a coal mine in Ostrava on Thursday night. Three others were injured in the Důl Karviná, a spokesperson for the mining company OKD told reporters. He said the firm was doing all it could to increase safety in the mine, but preventing some natural phenomena was not humanly possible.
Two of the Czech Republic’s biggest wine festivals get underway on Friday. The Pálava Festival in the Moravian town of Mikulov and the Historic Wine Festival in the nearby Znojmo are expected to attract around 100,000 people between them over the weekend. The Mikulov festival has been running since 1947, while the Znojmo event began two decades later.
The Czech football referee Dagmar Damková officiated in the final of the women’s European Championships in Helsinki on Thursday, a game in which defending champions Germany beat England 6:2. Damková, who is 34, also officiated in the women’s final at the Beijing Olympics last year. She is the only woman to have refereed top flight men’s football in the Czech Republic.
We should see sunny spells with some rain over the coming days. Forecasters say maximum temperatures should reach 20 or 21 degrees Celsius.