Prime Minister Petr Nečas has called a meeting of coalition leaders to resolve the current government crisis, the daily Právo reports. The leaders of the governing Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and the Public Affairs party are expected to attend a working dinner at the prime minister’s residence on Wednesday evening. The meeting is expected to focus on changes in the cabinet following the resignation of Transport Minister Vít Bárta in the wake of a corruption scandal in the junior coalition party and the proposed dismissal of the interior and education ministers from the same party.
The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, have repeated their call for the resignation of Interior Minister Radek John and the proposed dismissal of the interior and education ministers from the Public Affairs party to be approved by Czech President Václav Klaus. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said on Wednesday that by refusing to approve the cabinet changes, the president is aggravating and prolonging the current government crisis. Mr. Klaus said earlier that he would not approve the changes in cabinet until the governing coalition had agreed on a solution to the crisis since he did not want to see the country thrown into turmoil. The constitution binds the president to approve all ministerial resignations and dismissals, but does not specify a time frame.
According to a report published on the website of the weekly Týden on Wednesday, the former head of the Public Affairs’ group of deputies, MP Kristýna Kočí, had been plotting against her own party for several months. The report cites a secretly-taped conversation between Mrs. Kočí and two other former Public Affairs members, in which she allegedly speculates on who else would be willing to leave the party following a corruption scandal surrounding its unofficial leader, Vít Bárta. Reportedly, Mrs. Kočí also speaks of a project that she has been planning with the head of the Civic Democrats’ group of deputies Petr Tluchoř for several months. Mrs. Kočí commented on the taped conversation, claiming that what she had said was a “calculated lie.”
She was the second Public Affairs figure to speak publicly about corruption within the party, which has led to the ongoing crisis of the Czech coalition government.
In a reaction to the report published on Týden’s website on Wednesday, Public Affairs leader Radek John said that a report that Mrs. Kočí had been planning a plot against her own party in collaboration with members of the Civic Democrats for several months had come as a shock. He added that if the information was accurate, it would shed new light on recent events and would have far-reaching consequences not just for the party, but for the future of the government.
Commenting on the secretly-taped conversation, Prime Minister Petr Nečas labeled the allegations on the tape absurd. Claims that the head of the Civic Democrats’ group of deputies, Petr Tluchoř, had forced him to announce the resignation of transport minister and leading Public Affairs member Vít Bárta, who is at the center of the ongoing scandal within the party, were akin to conspiracy theories, the PM said. He added that the publication of this tape was to divert the attention from the real cause of the ongoing government crisis and distanced himself from the corruption scandal within Public Affairs.
Former Social Democrats leader Jiří Paroubek said on Wednesday that the main opposition party should tolerate a minority government of Civic Democrats and the right-of-center TOP 09 party should talks on saving the three-party coalition fail. Mr. Paroubek said he believes that a minority government would be a good thing since it would open the way for a broad debate on sweeping reforms. He added that he does not consider early elections to be a solution to the present crisis because it would bring the country to a halt for several months.
Italian President Georgio Napolitano is in Prague for a two-day official visit. On Wednesday morning he met with his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus at Prague Castle to discuss bilateral relations and international affairs, in particular the current situation in Libya which has led to an influx of North African refugees in Italy. Mr. Klaus and Mr. Napolitano are set to open a newly renovated hall of Prague’s main train station on Thursday. The renovation was financed by the Italian investment company Grandi Stazioni. The state-owned Czech Railways company has leased the station to the investor for 30 years.
Czech President Václav Klaus has made international headlines after a clip of him stealing a pen during a press conference while visiting Chile was broadcast on Czech Television on Sunday night and later posted on the internet video platform YouTube. In the video, Klaus, who is sitting next to his Chilean counterpart Sebastian Pinera, opens a pen case, removes the pen from it and then hides his hands under the table before closing the empty case. As of Wednesday, the video had drawn over 1.5 million views, making it an internet sensation. In the UK, both The Guardian and The Times covered the incident. Mr. Klaus was quoted by the Czech news site Novinky.cz on Tuesday, commenting that taking pens from an event was “standard” and pointing out that the pen he had taken was commonly presented to foreign delegations as a token.
The Personal Data Protection Office (UOOU) has started investigating the ABL detective agency in connection with allegations that ABL spied on Prague politicians from the Civic Democrats party. The results of the inquiry are expected to be published by the end of May, the director of the office told journalists on Wednesday. Police shelved the case three weeks ago. ABL was established by former transport minister Vít Bárta, who stepped down on Friday following a corruption scandal. Mr. Bárta left his post as the general director of the agency and sold his shares of the company to his brother before becoming transport minister.
President Václav Klaus has signed a bill adding over thirty synthetic drugs to the list of banned substances. The lower house drafted the proposal for the change in law in reaction to new synthetic narcotics that have recently appeared on the Czech market, especially in northern Moravia. Some of the substances that were added to the blacklist were also recently banned in Poland. Initially, the Senate’s committee on constitutional and legal matters had refused to endorse the bill due to concerns over the lack of a transition period, as well as its enforcement.
Photographer Miroslav Tichý died on Tuesday at the age of 84. Tichý, who took his pictures with a home-made camera, didn’t rise to fame until late in his life. Collector Roman Buxbaum introduced his work to a larger audience in the 1990s. His photos have a characteristic style; they are out of focus, over- or under-exposed. He often photographed female passersby, with his camera concealed by his coat. Because of the erotic nature of some of his work, some residents of the south Moravian village of Kyjov, where he lived, considered him a voyeur and a madman. His work has been shown at galleries worldwide and was recently featured in a solo-exhibit at Prague’s Old Town Hall.
Over the next few days, cool and rainy conditions are expected, with mostly cloudy skies and daytime highs of around 10° Celsius.