An amendment to the Czech constitution allowing the lower house to dissolve itself if at least three fifths of MPs vote in favour came into force on Monday. The amendment was hastily approved by both houses of Parliament last week and signed by the president and prime minister at the weekend in order to facilitate the holding of early elections on November 6 and 7. The lower house is expected to approve its own dissolution on Tuesday.
Elections had been called for October 8 and 9. However, they were cancelled by the Constitutional Court, which upheld a complaint by independent MP Miloš Melčák that a one-off amendment allowing for them was unlawful. Mr Melčák and another independent MP Juraj Raninec have said they may take the second constitutional amendment back to court. However, Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda pointed out on Sunday that once the lower house is dissolved they will lose the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
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.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov is in Prague for talks with senior Czech officials, including President Václav Klaus, Defence Minister Martin Barták and Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka. Earlier, his meeting with the Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer focussed on economic ties, discussing the energy sector, investment, as well as cooperation on scientific research. Business between the two countries in 2008 was worth around 13 billion US dollars. Nevertheless, Mr Zhukov’s visit comes at a time of heightened tension between Russia and the Czech Republic: two Russian diplomats were expelled from the Czech Republic last month on the suspicion of spying. Another issue dividing Prague and Moscow is America’s plan to build a radar base in central Bohemia – part of a broader anti-missile shield in Europe.
The government’s advisory council on the economy (NERV) has estimated that the Czech economy could see improvement in 2010, projecting GDP growth of up to 1 percent on Monday. By comparison, the finance ministry is currently working with a forecast of 0.3 percent growth for next year. Not all, though are optimistic, some - namely the country’s trade unions - are predicting zero growth or even a further shrinking of the economy in 2010. By comparison, this year the economy could shrink by up to 5 percent, the government advisory council’s Vladimír Dlouhý said on Monday.
The Czech Republic’s neighbour (and former federation partner) Slovakia has criticised a decision by Canada, taken in July, to reinstate visas for Czech nationals. The country’s foreign minister Miroslav Lajčák said at the start of a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels on Monday that Bratislava would do everything in its power to turn the situation around. Mr Lajčák said in a statement that Slovakia would be among those pushing strongly for ‘European solidarity’ in the case. Canada reinstated visas for Czech nationals after almost two years of visa-free relations, as a result of a marked rise in the number of applications for asylum – mostly from within the Roma community.
Police have revealed that they have not been able to learn who was behind an August attack on Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek, which left him with light injuries; they have said their investigation will continue. At the weekend, the police charged four men for with throwing stones and eggs at the politician during a pre-election stop. Mr Topolánek suffered a cut on the head after being hit by the projectiles. The four later turned themselves in, saying they had been recruited by an unknown party who had offered each 40,000 crowns and an additional 50,000 crowns in advance to go ahead with the move. It is not known whether the four men received any money for the attack.
Tesco stores in the Czech Republic have removed bacon from their shelves provided by a Czech company after the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority found incidences of the listeria bacteria in packages. Around 1,000 packages by P&K Lahůdky, with a “use by” date of September 15 were suspect. The contamination uncovered is thought to have occurred during the production process. Listeria can be especially dangerous to new-borns and seniors as well as individuals with weakened immune systems. Tesco has stopped all deliveries from the firm for the time being and removed bacon by P&K Lahůdky dating roughly up until the end of September.
Five squatters out of 24 arrested by police in Prague at the weekend after they moved into an empty building in Prague’s Albertov district, have been sentenced to 80 – 100 hours of community work, while a sixth person received a two-month suspended sentence. The ruling was handed down by the Prague 2 district court on Monday; rulings on an additional 17 people charged have yet to be decided. The squatters charged were forcibly removed from the building in Albertov, Prague 2, on Sunday, after the police were unable to get them to quit the premises of their own accord. A day earlier squatters and their supporters had physically clashed with police officers as they attempted to gain access to the site.
The Czech Republic’s Lukáš Dlouhý has won the doubles final at tennis’s US Open with his Indian partner Leander Paes. They were trailing by a set and a break before clawing back to beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2 at Flushing Meadows on Sunday. Dlouhý had been beaten in the final of the US Open in 2007 and 2008. He and Paes are now celebrating their second Grand Slam title of the season, after also triumphing at this year’s the French Open.
Hockey forward and two-time Stanley Cup winner Petr Sýkora has signed with the Minnesota Wild in the National Hockey League (NHL), agreeing to a one-year contract. The 32-year-old Sýkora spent the last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, before becoming a free agent. His earlier Stanley Cup win came with the New Jersey Devils in 2000.
Some sunny periods but also cloudy conditions and rain are expected over the coming days. Forecasters say maximum temperatures will reach 23 degrees Celsius.