Daily news summary News

09-04-2005

PM Gross to step down, former coalition partners agree to reform government headed by a Social Democrat

A proposal put forth by Prime Minister Stanislav Gross on how to choose his replacement was agreed on Saturday by the top leadership of the Social Democratic party, of which Mr Gross is chairman. His proposal, first announced on Thursday, is to form a "pro-European" government of the three-party coalition including the centre-right Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union parties, with the new prime minister to again be a member of the left-leaning Social Democrats.

The leaders of the other two parties have agreed in principle to the proposal, and to Mr Gross' condition that he have final say over the appointment of new Cabinet ministers, but have bristled at his suggestion that those ministers who have "recently undermined" the old government - taken to mean the five ministers who have resigned from the Cabinet in recent days - not be allowed to return. However, all three parties have reportedly agreed in private that their leaders will not seek key Cabinet posts.

Czech ambassador to Brussels Jan Kohout is 'chief candidate' to take over as Prime Minister

Meanwhile, Mr Gross confirmed on Saturday that the "chief candidate" to fill his shoes is the current Czech ambassador to the European Union, Jan Kohout. The two men had held private talks on Friday about the possibility of Mr Kohout returning from Brussels to head up the new "pro-European" government, a prime task of which would be to push through ratification of the European Constitution.

Sobotka and Skromach preferred Social Democratic party candidates to replace Gross

According to a new poll by the STEM agency, however, the majority of voters are not in favour of the three-party coalition continuing in government. Sixty-one percent of those polled said would prefer for early elections to be held instead. When asked who should be the next prime minister, given that the coalition parties have agreed it will be a Social Democrat party member, 28 percent named the current Minister of Finance, Bohuslav Sobotka, as their choice, 18 percent said Zdenek Skromach, who is the minister of Labour and Social Affairs, while only 17 percent said they thought Stanislav Gross should remain in his post.

Social Democrats would finish third in early elections

Another opinion poll just released by the CVVM agency suggests Mr Gross's Social Democrats, with 14.5 percent support, would come third in general elections. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats have 31 percent support, followed by the Communist Party with 15.5 percent.

Roma activists renew call for removal of 'offensive' pig farm at site of WWII labour camp

On the occasion of the 'International Day of Roma', Czech Roma leaders on Friday issued a renewed call for the removal of a pig farm at the site of World War II labour camp where thousands of Roma, also known as Gypsies, were interred, and several hundred died. Roma activist Ondrej Gina said that the new petition would demand that Czech authorities separate off a memorial to those who died at Lety camp from the pig farm, which was built under communism in the 1970s. Only one in 20 Czech Roma survived the war. The petitioners say the presence of the pig farm at Lety is an insult to the memory of those who were killed.

Weather:

Light rain remains in the forecast for the next few days, with daytime highs in the low teens.

09-04-2005