Members of the Civic Democratic Party have voted against holding a vote of confidence on chairman Mirek Topolánek at the party’s 20th conference. In-party opponents of the chairman and former prime minister were soundly defeated in the vote by a margin of almost three to one. A vote to cast secret ballots was also rejected. Mr Topolánek faced heavy criticism from speakers at the convention, among other things for resigning his parliamentary mandate in September to protest a failed vote to dissolve Parliament for early elections. In an hour-long opening speech, the party chairman emphasised his view that a change of leadership would mean sure victory for the party’s main rivals, the Social Democrats, in elections scheduled for mid-2010. He also promised that he would step down as party chairman should the Civic Democrats lose that election.
In a letter to the convention, President Václav Klaus called upon the Civic Democrats and other right-wing parties to offer more topics for voters who would otherwise pay more attention to extremist groups. Mr Klaus, who is currently in Peru, wrote that he sees primary threats in the welfare state, rampant infringements on privacy, the emergence of new, left-wing parties focusing on environmental issues and constraints imposed by the EU. Should the party neglect these issues, he warned, people will vent their frustration through other, potentially extremist groups.
President Klaus founded the Civic Democratic Party in 1991. He resigned his membership and his seat as honorary chairman last year, saying he found it difficult to identify with the party’s centrist shift.
A Czech soldier of the 15th contingent on duty in Kosovo was shot on Saturday, possibly by a member of the same contingent. The 26-year-old soldier was rushed to an American military hospital where he was operated on and his condition is now stabilised. Defence ministry spokesman Andrej Čírtek says there are serious suspicions that the soldier was shot by one of his comrades. The spokesmen noted that the contingent in question has proven to be problematic on other occasions. The ministry, he said, is mounting an investigation, and the wounded soldier will be brought home the moment his health allows.
Former constitutional judge and one of the authors of the Czech constitution, Vojtěch Cepl, has died at the age of 71. The Constitutional Court announced the death on Saturday. Judge Eliška Wagnerová, who made the announcement, praised her colleague’s tireless promotion of the rule of law, which he felt was as important as democracy itself. As court’s most visible member, she said, Judge Cepl had helped ingrain the institution of constitutional justice in Czech society.
Vojtěch Cepl was born in Prague in 1938 and was educated at Charles University, Oxford and the University of Michigan. From 1969 until 1993 he was a professor at Charles University and sat on the Constitutional Court from 1993 until 2003.
Traffic at Prague’s Ruzyně Airport came to a halt on Saturday for more than five hours due to an electrical fire in the control tower. No one was injured. The airport was unable to say how many passengers were affected as ten flights were cancelled and 17 were diverted. The fire began early Saturday morning in auxiliary power cables and did not apparently affect traffic control systems. Tower dispatchers returned to work later in the morning, however the airport has said that flights will continue to be delayed throughout the day. Prague-Ruzyně is the Czech Republic’s primary international airport and one of the busiest hubs in Central Europe with an average 34,000 passengers a day.
The Czech Republic’s chief hygiene officer, Michael Vít, says the country is on the verge of a swine flu epidemic, which he expects at the beginning of December. With more than 2000 infections per 100,000 population, the regions of Karlovy Vary, Moravo-Silesia and Zlín are already considered to have an epidemic underway. The Ministry of Heath has announced that swine flu vaccine has been distributed and vaccinations can be given immediately.
Representatives of the Association of Czech Travel Agencies have reached an agreement with the Ministry of Finance on the interpretation of an amendment to the “prices act”, which took effect November 18. According to the agreement, travel agencies will provide final prices for package holidays in their promotional literature, rather than an enumeration of separate expenses.
A poll conducted by the agency CVVM suggests that support for the Lisbon treaty increased to 43% in the month before its final ratification by President Václav Klaus in early November. According to the poll, one fourth of Czechs believe the treaty is beneficial to the Czech Republic while some 20% believe the opposite. A third of respondents said that the treaty would have no effect on the country’s position in the European Union. 64% of people complained of a lack of information about the treaty and a similar number said that they had very little or no interest in the issue. The Czech Republic delayed EU-wide ratification of the reform treaty during October as eurosceptic politicians in the country made last-ditch efforts to challenge its constitutionality.
Speed skater Martina Sáblíková has won the gold medal in the 5000m event at the World Cup in Hamar, Norway. The 22-year-old Czech managed to get a two-second lead at the outset held it to finish nearly three seconds ahead of her closest opponent, German Stephanie Beckert. Sáblíková, who has won the last three world championships, came in four and a half seconds behind her own world record.
Conditions over the weekend are expected to be mostly cloudy with highs of 10° to 14° Celsius and scattered showers on Sunday.