The opposition Social Democrats have filed a no-confidence motion against the coalition government in response to allegations of corruption at the Environment Ministry. The vote on the government is to take place on Tuesday. The centre-right coalition, which holds 118 of 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, should be able to pass. The no-confidence motion is the first against the three-party coalition since it assumed office in mid-July.
On Wednesday, Environment Minister Pavel Drobil announced his resignation following allegations he tried to cover up corruption in his department by a chief advisor who appears to have tried to manipulate state contracts; the Social Democrats have charged, however, that the move did not go far enough, suggesting the prime minister also knew about the case earlier. Social Democrat regional governor Michal Hašek said the prime minister should also step down, unless he explained his steps.
In related news, coalition junior member Public Affairs, irked over the allegations of corruption at the Environment Ministry, called on the prime minister to return to the Czech Republic immediately after the end of the summit in Brussels, to call a meeting of coalition parties on the matter. The party’s deputy chairwoman, Karolina Peake, called the situation “urgent”, saying the scandal had cast a shadow on the government’s pledge to stamp out corruption. Government spokesman Jan Osúch responded on Thursday by saying the prime minister had been informed and would hold a coalition meeting on Friday.
The Senate has passed a bill which will lower pay for legislators, judges and state attorneys by five percent. The proposal received backing from most senators present, including the Social Democrats, who originally opposed it. Last week the party signalled the intention to block the amendment in the Senate, necessitating a second vote in the lower house. But they backed away from the plan on Thursday since a failure to pass new legislation by January would have seen a previously approved pay rise for lawmakers come into effect. Originally, the Social Democrats were opposed to state attorneys being included in the amendment.
Two Czech Army pilots ejected to safety on Thursday after their L-39 jet’s engine lost power above the Třebíc area. Before exiting the plane, the pilots were able to navigate the aircraft to an uninhabited zone to ensure the crash would not put additional lives at risk. A military base spokesman told the Czech news agency that a military rescue helicopter was quickly dispatched to the site of the accident to recover the pilots. Neither suffered injury. Some residents nearby, who heard the sound of the crash, also called for help and tried to provide assistance. Officials will investigate possible causes behind the crash; a spokeswoman also confirmed that the head of the General Staff, General Vlastimil Picek, would also travel to the scene.
The Czech Republic will receive almost 130 million crowns (the equivalent of around 5 million euros) to help cover damages from floods which hit parts of the country in May and June. The information was released by the European Commission on Thursday. A spokesman for the Finance Ministry confirmed that the allotted funds would defray expenses for repairs to public property and infrastructure that had not been covered by insurance companies but would not cover losses suffered by private businesses. Damage from the floods earlier in the year was estimated in the billions of crowns.
The lower house of the Czech parliament on Wednesday adopted a 2011 austerity budget that foresees a reduction in the public deficit to 4.6 percent of output from an expected 5.3 percent this year. The budget, presented by the government, calls for sharp cuts in social spending and civil servant wages. The measure was backed in the 200-seat chamber by 111 votes from the ruling centre-right coalition and opposed by 75 Social Democrat and Communist MPs. The government is hoping to narrow the public deficit to 2.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2013, within the 3.0 percent prescribed by the European Commission. Prime Minister Petr Nečas' government has been in place since August and has vowed to carry out sharp spending cuts to prevent a worsening of the country's debt obligations.
A new poll release by the Factum Invenio agency has suggested that if the national election were held now six parties would make it into the lower house of parliament. According to the survey results, the opposition Social Democrats would pick up 61 seats, the coalition members Civic Democrats 47, TOP 09 41, and Public Affairs just 10 – a drop in 14 seats since May’s election. The Communists would gain 29. Perhaps the most dramatic shift would be that of the Christian Democrats, who failed to cross the Chamber of Deputies’ five percent threshold in the election; according to the survey, if the election were held now the party would make it back in by picking up some 12 seats.
Extremely cold weather is continuing in the Czech Republic, with record temperatures measured in the Jizerky Mountains: -31.4 degrees Celsius. Harsh winter conditions have continued to wreak havoc: fresh snowfall on Wednesday saw complications on many roads, while freezing into Thursday affected the Prague-Děčín railway route. Low temperatures cracked railway tracks in places, leading to more than two hours delay. Four regional tracks also are not running due to heavy snowfall.
Football’s Sparta Prague drew 1:1 with CSKA Moscow in their final Europa League group stage game on Wednesday night. The Russians opened the scoring through Alan Dzagoev, before Václav Kadlec equalised for the Czech champions. CSKA had already come first in the four-team group with points to spare, while Sparta’s hold on second place was unassailable.
Top Czech cyclist Roman Kreuziger, who finished ninth in the Tour de France last year, travelled to Astana, Kazakhstan this week to meet with new teammates from Pro Team Astana, including team co-leader Alexandr Vinkourov. The team was on hand for the inauguration of a new velodrome in Astana, an event attended by the country’s president Nazarbayev Nursultan. The Czech rider has since moved on to Majorca, Spain where he will begin training along with world cyclo-cross champion Zdeněk Štybar.
Cloudy conditions and renewed snowfall are expected into Friday. Daytime temperatures will remain well below zero, between -10 and -6 degrees Celsius.