The three parties of the Czech governing coalition have worked out a deal to allow the centre-right government to continue, President Vaclav Klaus said ahead of a no-confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday. The president met with party leaders for emergency consultations to help ensure support for the right-wing cabinet in the wake of a corruption scandal that has shaken the governing coalition in its foundations. The president did not specify the conditions of the agreement, saying merely that he would act as guarantor to see they were fulfilled.
The no-confidence motion in the centre-right coalition government was tabled by the opposition Social Democrats in the wake of a corruption scandal at the Environment Ministry that, in one way or another, implicated top government officials, including Prime Minister Petr Nečas whom the opposition is accusing of having failed to act when he was alerted to the matter several weeks ago. Environment Minister Pavel Drobil resigned shortly after news of the scandal broke, but the opposition says the government has betrayed its promise to fight corruption and is calling for broader repercussions. The scandal –involving allegations of manipulation with public tenders in order to raise money for the Civic Democrats - caused a rift in the governing coalition which several rounds of talks failed to breach. The smallest coalition party Public Affairs, which won 24 seats in lower house on a strong anti-corruption agenda, conditioned its support for the government on the dismissal of the police president.
The opposition Social Democrats have expressed anger over the deal reached saying that the corruption scandal was being swept under the carpet and demanding that details of the agreement which restored coalition unity be made public. The main opposition party has been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Petr Nečas, saying that he had failed in his duty as prime minister and irretrievably lost public trust by not requesting an immediate investigation into the corruption claims.
The Association of Towns and Cities has confirmed irregularities in the working of the State Environmental Fund which is at the centre of the latest corruption scandal. People within the fund are believed to have manipulated public tenders in order to raise money for the Civic Democrats. Tomas Chmela, head of the Association of Towns and Cities, said on Tuesday he had received similar signals from dozens of mayors who had complained about a lack of transparency in decision-making at the fund and that in some cases they had even received veiled requests for bribes.
President Vaclav Klaus has pardoned Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, a former communist prosecutor who is serving a six year sentence for her part in the judicial murder of democratic politician Milada Horaková in the hardline 1950s. Ludmila Brožová Polednová, who is now 89, is the last living participant in one of the most notorious show trials of communist-era Czechoslovakia and is the sole person tried in connection with the murder. In 2007 was found guilty and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment. This sentence was overturned, but the following year she faced another trial in which she was also found guilty and sentenced to six years. After a series of unsuccessful appeals, Brožová-Polednová became the Czech Republic's oldest prisoner when in March 2009 when she was incarcerated at a special geriatric facility at the Světlá nad Sázavou Prison in central Bohemia. Her case has evoked mixed reactions with some people pleading clemency in view of her advanced age.
Prague’s Ruzyně Airport was forced to cancel over a dozen flights out of Prague on Tuesday due to continuing bad weather conditions across Europe. The cancellations affected primarily flights for Frankfurt, London and Brussels. Ruzyně Airport itself has no major problems in connection with the weather. Passengers heading for problem destinations are advised to contact the airport well ahead of their flight for new developments.
The Czech Republic's Pirate Party has launched the country's version of the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks — PirateLeaks.The party says PirateLeaks aims to provide secure and anonymous space for publishing secret documents from national, regional and local offices as well as government ministries. It says it intends to release information in order to improve public oversight, but will not publish anything that could damage Czech interests, violate human rights, or endanger lives.
The Czech health authorities have reported 27 new cases of HIV in November of this year, which is the steepest increase in a single month since testing started in 1985. The overall number of HIV positive cases registered in this country is 1520, of which 320 people developed AIDS and 169 died of it. The authorities warn that less money is being put into prevention and young people no longer feel at risk.
The National Technical Museum in Prague is to re-open to the public on February 15, after a four-year reconstruction. The museum has been through a stormy year in which it saw the appointment of three successive directors following the sacking of Horymír Kubíček, who was dismissed over improper management of state funds. The institution’s present director Karel Ksandr said on Tuesday that the institution was in good order and would be ready to serve the public again within a matter of weeks.
The police has detained three men who are suspected of breaking into Orlik Chateau and stealing millions of crowns worth of art-objects in April of this year. The men had laid their plans well and appear to have been familiar with the chateau’s security system. They stole the most valuable objects from four exposition halls, mainly paintings, silverware and period weapons. If convicted they would face a sentence of up to ten years.
A survey conducted by Chevrolet indicates that only 65 percent of Czech drivers use winter tires, as compared to 85 percent in neighbouring Slovakia. The unwillingness of so many Czech drivers to comply with road safety regulations has led the authorities to propose an amendment to the law which would make winter tires compulsory for all vehicles, including busses. The amendment is expected to sail smoothly through Parliament but it will not be approved in time to make roads safer this winter.
The coming days should bring more snow with day temperatures hovering around zero C.