President Václav Klaus has ratified a legislative amendment aimed at speeding up the settlement of complaints filed with the Supreme Administrative Court. The court will, for the first time, have the ability to overturn contested decisions without their being returned to district courts, as was hitherto the case. The amendment to this practice is expected to accelerate the work of the court by at least half a year. The new law also gives the ombudsman the authority to file cases in the public interest directly to administrative courts, which could previously be done only through a state prosecutor.
The chief justice of the Constitutional Court, Judge Pavel Rychetský, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for president by a number of Social Democrats, the news website iDnes has reported. Mr Rychetský, who rejected candidacies in 2003 and 2008, would be particularly suitable if indirect elections remain unchanged, an unnamed source from within the Social Democratic party told the daily. Mr Rychetský for his part has said he does not intend to announce candidacy and would not be commenting further.
On Friday, Civic Democrat Přemysl Sobotka announced his intention to run, asking for the support of his fellow party members. The chairman of the TOP 09 party, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, has also been mentioned as a likely candidate if the current system is changed to direct presidential elections
The first private trains to rival Czech Railways began service on Monday on the Ostrava Prague line. The RegioJet company, which belongs to the Student Agency group known for its bus services, will be operating three trains daily on the Havířov – Ostrava – Olomouc – Prague line in each direction. In the future the company intends to increase the connections to 18 a day. RegioJet is also looking to compete against the dominant railway player through passenger services, offering free internet connection, better mobile signal, and free newspapers and beverages. The first trains were reportedly sold out on Monday. Another private company, Leo Express, intends to compete on the Ostrava – Prague line beginning in December of 2012.
The executive council of the Civic Democratic Party on Monday called upon the heads of Mr Kalousek’s party, TOP 09, to distance themselves from the variously abrasive statements he has made towards them, deputy chairwoman Miroslava Němcová told reporters. Prime Minister Nečas, the chairman of the Civic Democrats, said that political rivalry between the two right-wing parties had its limits, and that the finance minister’s fatigue and irritability do not excuse him. Earlier, Mr Kalousek attacked the prime minister directly, saying he served only by the grace of Civic Democrat Mafioso.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek apologised on Monday to two Civic Democrat MEPs who he publically called “insignificant idiots”. Mr Kalousek said he was deeply ashamed of having used such language at a moment of exceptional stress. The remark came in response to criticism from the Euro MPs that the finance minister had been neglecting his duty to attend meetings of the EU’s Economic and Financial Affairs Council. He nonetheless rejected their claims. The finance minister has frequently drawn attention in recent weeks for harsh verbal attacks on colleagues and in one case for physically attacking a member of the public who insulted him. Prime Minister Nečas has expressed concern about his state of health.
The financial groups PPF and KKCG have acquired bankrupt lottery giant Sazka through a tender. The committee of creditors has approved the arrangement. KKCG, a multinational financing group, and PPF, owned by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, made the highest bid in the tender, 3.81 billion crowns. The Penta group, which boycotted the tender claiming it was illegal, offered five billion for Sazka outside of the competition and wants to contest the decision in court. Sazka creditor Česká Spořitelna is also criticising the tender.
A new poll from the STEM agency suggests that the Communist Party is gaining from preference drops among the three main parties. The survey sets the Social Democratic Party, the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 back by 1 to 2 percentage points against their polling results in June. Meanwhile Communist party support grew marginally by 0.4%. Elections held now would, according to STEM, leave the opposition Social Democrats with 87 parliamentary seats, the Civic Democrats with 45, and TOP 09 with 30. The Communists under such conditions would win 38 mandates, seven more than suggested in June.
Trade unions and civic initiatives say they are planning another demonstration against government reforms for October 22. The chairman of the association of trade unions said that the unions would not be transporting to supporters to the centre of Prague, instead encouraging dissatisfied citizens to come on their own and protest the reforms and the government’s overall policies for running that state. He said the intention was for people to show their anger, and that if they did not attend then the unions would understand it as their protest being unwelcome.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has appointed former rector of Masaryk University Petr Fiala to serve as his chief science advisor. Mr Nečas made the announcement in Brno at the opening conference of the new Central European Institute of Technology. In creating the new post the Prime Minister said he was following the practice of countries with developed traditions in science, research and innovation, which he noted is a key prerequisite for a competitive country. Dr Fiala is not a natural scientist but studied history and Czech studies at the University of Brno, where he later founded the Department of Political Science and received his doctorate. His two terms as head of Masaryk University, the country’s second largest, began in 2004.
Police discovered a dummy bomb on an international train at Prague’s Main Station on Sunday night. A passenger travelling from Belgrade reported a woman’s purse that had been left in the lavatory, containing what looked to be a wired explosive device. A bomb squad was called in and found the device was a fake. A woman later phoned in to say she had forgotten the purse on the train. She is currently being questioned by the police to determine why she had been carrying the device.
Conditions over the coming days are expected to be mostly cloudy with daytime highs of around 22° Celsius.