News Social Democrats to put candidate selection method to party referendum
The leadership of the Social Democrats plans to put changes to how the party is run to a referendum of members by June, the prime minister and party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said on Saturday. One issue that will be put to the vote is whether to introduce a system of primaries so that the establishment of lists of electoral candidates is no longer in the hands of local party bosses, he said after the Social Democrats’ first ever conference specifically dedicated to drawing up reforms. Mr. Sobotka also told reporters the party wished to become more attractive to specialists in various fields in a bid to boost their appeal.
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It seems unlikely that the flow of refugees from Turkey can be halted completely, the Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, said on Tuesday. Speaking in the Turkish city of Izmir, the minister said most refugees currently in the country were willing to try to reach Europe at virtually any cost. Mr. Zaorálek said, however, that conditions could be created in Turkey that would deter migrants from attempting a dangerous crossing of the Aegean Sea. The Czech Republic is donating CZK 10 million to Turkey to help its refugee aid programme.
The opposition Civic Democrats have called for the sacking of the minister of defence, Martin Stropnický of ANO, in connection with the leak of classified information over five Czechs abducted in Lebanon who were released last week. Civic Democrats party chief Petr Fiala said Mr. Stropnický had to go as he recently publicly admitted that the Czechs had been exchanged for Lebanese citizens wanted in the US on terrorism charges. Another opposition party, TOP 09, said the government’s poor handling of kidnappings would threaten Czech citizens’ safety for some years.
Last year the Czech Republic drew nearly CZK 152 billion more from the European Union than it paid into the bloc, according to figures released by the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday. It was the highest such gap since the country joined the EU in May 2004. The Czech Republic drew a total of CZK 157 billion from the union’s Structural and Cohesion Funds, as well as receiving CZK 31 billion under the Common Agricultural Policy. Since its accession the Czech Republic has contributed CZK 429 billion to the EU’s coffers and received CZK 990 billion.
Prague saw a year-on-year increase in tourist numbers of 7.8 percent in 2015, according to data published on Tuesday by the Czech Statistics Office. Around 6.8 million visitors were registered in the Czech capital last year, with almost 5.7 million of them coming from abroad. Tourist overnight stays totalled 15.9 million in 2015, which also represented a 7.8 percent rise.
The National Security Authority will investigate the State Security Council over the possible leaking of information, the news website Echo24.cz reported. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka called for the investigation after details of the government’s actions with regard to Czechs held hostage in Lebanon and Pakistan were made public. The weekly Respekt reported that the state paid USD 6 million for the release of two Czech women kidnapped in Pakistan, while details have also emerged with regard to the freeing of five Czechs abducted in Lebanon and the subsequent release of a Lebanese man in custody in Prague. The State Security council is composed of several ministers and other senior public officials.
Former Brno police chief Jaroslav Přikryl has failed in an appeal against an 18-month jail term for quashing the fines of acquaintances and misusing personal data in police files. Mr. Přikryl – once spoken about as a possible national police president – missed the date he was due to begin serving his sentence, claiming health problems. He was found guilty of quashing traffic fines handed out to 20 acquaintances.
Security expert Adam Dolník says it is untrue that one of two Czech women kidnapped in Pakistan for over two years attempted to return to her abductors. Quoting the Czech security services, the weekly Respekt wrote on Monday that Hana Humpálová was stopped at the Turkish border while attempting to reach Pakistan in the autumn. Speaking to Lidovky.cz, Mr. Dolník also said that reporting how much the Czech state paid for the pair’s release would endanger others by raising the expectations of kidnappers. Respekt has defended its actions in reporting that the government handed over USD 6 million for the women’s release.
The police have rejected criticism from the justice minister for not taking action against masked men hurling missiles at left-wing activists in Prague on Saturday. Police president Tomáš Tuhý said on Tuesday that the force had acted professionally. Suspicions that individual officers acted inadequately are being investigated, he said. The minister of justice, Robert Pelikán, said commanding officers bore responsibility for failing to order action against individuals who were breaking the law by wearing masks and carrying weapons at a demonstration. The minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, said a proper investigation would take time and rejected what he called “show trials”.
Czech legend Jaromír Jágr notched his 1,600th NHL career game on Monday, but his team, the Florida Panthers, lost 3:0 against the Detroit Red Wings. Czech goalie Petr Mrázek got the shutout while Jakub Kindl picked up an assist.
A new poll conducted by TNS Aisa as part of a project entitled Trendy Česka (Czech Trends) suggests that the ANO movement would gain 30 percent of the vote in a national election today. ANO finished well ahead of fellow ruling coalition members the Social Democrats, who notched 20 percent. The opposition Civic Democrats ranked third, at 10 percent – one percent higher than the Communists. Opposition party TOP 09 and junior coalition member the Christian Democrats were the last parties to pass the five percent threshold needed to gain seats in the lower house of Parliament. Some 1,200 people were questioned in the poll.