News President backs Citizens’ Rights
Czech President Miloš Zeman gave full backing to the extra-parliamentary Citizens’ Rights on Saturday, saying the party was a due a restart after last year’s poor result in the general election. He made clear he favored the party dropping the word ‘Zemanites’ from its name, to focus on a new programme, new leaders and new ideas ahead of communal, and later parliamentary, elections. He also said he would be happy to stay on as honorary chairman. Citizens’ Rights elected former head of the Agrarian Chamber, Jan Veleba, party leader, on Saturday. Mr Veleba has taken a page politically from Mr Zeman, drawing inspiration from the so-called Scandinavian model ie. social state.
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Responding to the introduction of airport-style metal detectors at Prague Castle on Tuesday, the honorary head of TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, said that the institution was more closed today than it was under Gustav Husák, the last Communist president of Czechoslovakia. Mr. Schwarzenberg, who was chancellor to President Václav Havel and was defeated in the last presidential election by Miloš Zeman, said he recalled the joy with which Mr. Havel had opened Prague Castle to the public in the 1990s. He made the comments at an event launching the policy programme of TOP 09 ahead of regional and Senate elections later this year.
Voter support for ANO has grown by just over 1 percent to 23.9 percent, suggests an opinion poll conducted in August by the SANEP polling agency. The survey indicated that government leaders the Social Democrats would get 19.1 percent back if an election were held this month, a decline of slightly over 2 percent on the figure for the same poll in July. The Communists came third with 13.4 percent, followed by the Civic Democrats on 11.2 percent and TOP 09 on 6.1 percent.
Airport-style walk-through metal detectors have been installed at Prague Castle. Some weeks after security checks at the popular tourist site were stepped up, two such metal detectors were installed on Tuesday at the entrance to the castle’s First Courtyard from the main square. There is no other way into that part of the complex and queues have grown longer at Prague Castle, Czech Television reported. President Miloš Zeman says he believes his residence is a potential terrorist target. Tour operators say the checks have led to very long lines of visitors.
Following his triumph at the Olympics, Lukáš Krpálek is now the most sought after and popular figure in Czech sport, says Miroslav Černošek, the head of the agency, Česká sportovní, that represents the judo star. Mr. Černošek told the Czech News Agency that Krpálek’s success put him on a par with Roman Šeberle when he became Olympic decathlon champion in 2004 or Petra Kvitová when she won Wimbledon. Krpálek was the only Czech to win gold at the Rio Games and the medal is worth millions of crowns to him, said Mr. Černošek.
President Miloš Zeman will not appear in public again with Martin Konvička, an anti-Muslim campaigner who organised a mock Islamic State invasion in central Prague on Sunday, the president’s spokesperson said on Tuesday. Mr. Zeman shared the stage with the populist politician at a public event on November 17 last year but that situation will never be repeated, spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček told reporters. He also said the president condemned four men kidnapped in Lebanon who were suing the Czech state for compensation; they had “infinite cheek” and should actually reimburse the state for the costs incurred, according to Mr. Zeman.
The Ministry of Finance has put forward a proposal under which customs officials would be able to investigate tax-related crimes, which are currently the domain of the police. In addition, the plan envisages allowing the Customs Administration to examine complaints in more areas of taxation than the present VAT and consumer tax. Customs officials would also get powers to investigate illegal earnings, under the proposal, which was presented on Tuesday by Finance Minister Andrej Babiš of ANO. The minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec of the Social Democrats, recently announced the creation of a new financial police unit to focus on tax crime from the start of next year. Mr. Chovanec said there would need to be a detailed debate on expanding the powers of customs officers.
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, has described the organiser of a mock Islamic State invasion in central Prague as a lunatic. Speaking in Tuesday’s edition of the newspaper Právo, Mr. Sobotka said it had been clear for some time that anti-Muslim campaigner Martin Konvička was a “complete lunatic”. He also questioned the fact local officials had granted permission for such disorderly conduct, given that the lighting of the municipal Christmas tree on Old Town Square had been cancelled over fears of terrorism. Many passersby fled when associates of Mr. Konvička’s fired replica guns on the square during Sunday’s event. Police are investigating the matter.
The Ministry of the Environment has withdrawn a bill setting the price of ground water from the agenda of a cabinet meeting planned for Wednesday, Czech Television reported. Environment Minister Richard Brabec of ANO said that if the bill is submitted at a later date it will not contain provisions that could be abused so as to increase water prices for citizens. The prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats, welcomed the decision. Plans to increase the price of ground water by three by 2022 had divided the cabinet and been criticised by municipalities.
The country’s tax bureau, the Financial Administration, has issued a warning to tax payers to not respond to a fake text message making the rouds asking them to pay off arrears and providing a bank account number. Neither the number nor the information is genuine, the bureau’s spokeswoman confirmed. The Financial Administration has filed charges with the police.
Doctors found traces of ethylene glycol in a 27-year-old in Plzeň who ended up in hospital following a pub crawl, news website iDnes reports. The odourless, reportedly sweet-tasting compound is a component of anti-freeze. The patient, who reportedly suffered kidney damage, visited several establishments in Plzeň, namely pubs and some ‘non-stop’ bars, in mid-August. Several days later, he called the emergency services. The police are investigating whether a beverage he was served in one of the establishments was tainted or whether someone may purposely have poured the chemical into his drink.