The head of the opposition Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, has said in an interview for financial daily Hospodářské noviny that forming a minority government supported by the Communist Party would be an acceptable option for him if the next election results allow it. But he stressed that it was not his party’s goal to rule together with the Communists. In 1995, the Social Democrats passed a party decree banning it from forming a coalition with the Communist Party at the national level; both parties, however, have since governed together in local governments.
In related news, a new poll conducted by Factum Invenio has indicated that if a general election were held today it would be won handily by the Social Democrats, who would pick up 74 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The centre-right Civic Democrats, the head of the current ruling coalition, would clinch just 48. According to the survey, the Communists would pick up 33 mandates, paving the way for a Leftist government. Coalition party TOP 09, the poll suggests, would get 14.2 percent of the vote and the Christian Democrats – who failed to cross the five percent threshold last time – would now gain enough votes to return to the Chamber of Deputies.
According to the poll, upstart party Public Affairs, whose members were elected on an anti-corruption platform last year, would not make it in. Public Affairs was at the centre of a recent coalition scandal that has left the credibility of the government badly damaged.
Former MP Josef Vondruška has been cleared of charges that he tortured political prisoners under the country's former communist regime, justice authorities have said. A court in the north-western city of Liberec on Thursday found Mr Vondruška, 63, not guilty due to lack of direct evidence. Before Prague's communist regime collapsed in 1989, Mr Vondruška worked as a prison guard. He was accused by former detainees of having carried out particularly brutal beatings of political dissidents. The court ruled, however, that prosecutors had only presented indirect evidence of Vondruška's alleged crimes The prosecution immediately appealed the verdict. Mr Vondruška served as a lawmaker from 2002 to 2010; his parliamentary immunity was lifted in 2007 to allow him to stand trial.
The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption has indicated in a report that the Czech Republic is among countries that need to make the financing of political parties and movements more transparent. The report stresses that access to information about financing was needed, as well as a more frequent overview of donations. Also recommended in the report is improvement in the Czech Republic in the area of independent monitoring of pre-election campaigns. More pro-active monitoring needed to be present, the group found, but would require a strengthened mandate and support in funds.
The Prague State Prosecutors’ Office has confirmed that the late suspect Otakar T. was in all likelihood the man responsible for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl from the Trója district last year. Prosecutor Jana Hercegová made the announcement on Friday, saying that the chain of indirect evidence in the case practically ruled out that the perpetrator could have been anyone else. The evidence cited includes changes in the suspect’s testimony to the police, DNA evidence found on the murdered child’s schoolbag, and dactyloscopic traces found on a plastic bag underneath. Nine year-old Anička Janatková disappeared on her way from school last October sparking a nation-wide search. Otakar T. – suspected by the police early on – was charged with the girl’s rape and murder only months later, after her body was found. He attempted to commit suicide in a holding cell and died later from related injuries.
The police on Friday are expected to end their on-site investigation at an explosives plant in eastern Bohemia which suffered a huge nitro-glycerine explosion last Wednesday that claimed four lives. The bodies were not recovered following the tragedy; only some human remains were found. The full result of the investigation into the accident is expected by the end of May. Specialists from the country’s Mining Office have conducted their own investigation of the damaged site, as well as questioned witnesses, and have for now banned the further production of dynamite-type explosives in other areas of the factory.
The state forestry company Lesy České republiky has launched a tender on a five-year project on the sale of lumber and other forestry work to begin in 2012. The news was confirmed by a company spokesman on Friday. The tender is reportedly worth one billion Czech crowns. According to available information the public tender will be divided along 117 sections. Work will include the cutting and removal of lumber together with the planting of new trees. A fifth of lumber removed will have to be traded on the market or sold off in auction to give smaller producers a chance. LČR owns some 1.3 million hectares, roughly half of the country’s forests and 90 percent of the Lesy České republiky’s forests are subject to the tender. The mega-tender, however, has come under criticism from a number of environmental groups and some lumber firms.
The former environment minister Pavel Drobil (of the Civic Democrats) has been named the winner of this year’s “Ropák” (or Oil Guzzler), recognising the worst environmental policies. Winners of the anti-award are chosen each year by the Czech environmentalist group Děti Země (Children of the Earth). Mr Drobil, the organisation said, was singled out for the anti-award for a number of reasons, including, it charged, for weakening the importance and competencies of the environment ministry. The Ropák award takes its name from a fictional creature that survives on industrial waste; the animal was invented by Czech filmmaker Jan Svěrák.
The Venus of Petřkovice, a statuette from the Upper Palaeolithic period believed to be 23 thousand years old and valued at 50 million euros, will be exhibited at the site where it was first discovered in Ostrava-Petřkovice. The event will take place on Sunday, May 1 and last only throughout the day. The figurine, a headless female torso just 4.6 centimetres tall, was found by archaeologist Bohuslav Klíma in July, 1953. The statuette is carved from hematite.
The Czech Republic’s starting goalie at the Ice Hockey World Championships, Ondřej Pavelec, has been told by officials to change part of his equipment ahead of his first game. He will have to shorten his leg pads which were reportedly a centimetre too long. The goalie expressed surprise over the decision, saying the equipment was exactly the same as he used in the championship last year in Germany and the same that he uses regularly in the NHL.
The team’s coach Alois Hadamczik, meanwhile, has completed 18 names on the team roster with six spots left to fill. The team should now get added strength from overseas, including help from forward Tomáš Plekanec who arrives in Slovakia on Saturday. The team he plays for, the Montreal Canadiens, was eliminated in the NHL playoffs earlier this week.
Cloudy conditions and a chance of thunderstorms are expected into the weekend. Daytime temperatures should reach highs of 19 degrees Celsius.