Saturday, April 9, 2011

News 4.9.2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Saturday, April 9th, 2011

By: Daniela Lazarova

* The future of the Czech government is uncertain after a corruption
scandal in the junior Public Affairs party broke coalition ranks.

* The Public Affairs leadership has said a planned cabinet reshuffle
must affect all parties.

* The prime minister has rejected a call for a broader cabinet
reshuffle saying he would not be pushed into a barter deal by the
junior coalition party.

* President Vaclav Klaus has said the government is ripe for a

* Public Affairs rebel Krystina Koci has told journalists the junior
coalition party resembled a religious sect.

Government's future uncertain in the wake of unprecedented scandal

The future of the Czech coalition government is uncertain after a
corruption scandal in the junior Public Affairs party broke coalition
ranks. After the resignation of the central figure embroiled in the
scandal Transport Minister Vit Barta on Friday, Prime Minister Petr
Necas announced his own plans for damage control, saying that Public
Affairs leader, Interior Minister Radek John and Education Minister
Josef Dobes would also have to quit their posts. The Civic Democratic
Party and TOP 09 have said the government reshuffle is not negotiable
and they would insist on it even if it were to lead to the fall of the
pro-reform government.

The Public Affairs party shook in its foundations last week when two of
its prominent members filed charges against Mr. Barta, seen as the
unofficial party boss, saying that he had bribed them in order to buy
their loyalty and prevent them from questioning the party's financing.
Independently of them the media produced information indicating that
the former owner of the biggest detective agency in the country ABL had
established the political party in order to wield more power and did
not have a problem tailing political rivals to achieve his goals. Mr.
Barta, who sold the ABL detective agency to his brother shortly after
entering high politics, has denied the claims. Although he resigned
from the post of transport minister on Friday he says he intends to
clear his name and run for the post of party chairman.

Public Affairs wants bigger reshuffle

The Public Affairs leadership, which met to debate the deepening
government crisis on Saturday, said the planned government reshuffle
must affect all parties. Party leader and Interior Minister Radek John
said that he and Education Minister Josef Dobes were prepared to leave
their posts on condition that the prime minister also dismisses Defense
Minister Alexander Vondra from the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 Finance
Minister Miroslav Kalousek and Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa, also
from the Civic Democrats -all of whom he said were linked to dubious
contracts past and present. He said that if the prime minister wanted a
clean slate the "presumption of guilt" must apply to all ministers in
the government.

PM rejects tit-for-tat dismissals

At a meeting of the Civic Democratic Party leadership on Saturday Prime
Minister Necas sharply rejected Public Affairs' demand for three more
dismissals, saying he would not be pushed into some kind of barter deal
to satisfy the junior coalition party. Mr. Necas said the cabinet
reshuffle he had proposed was in reaction to the scandal racking the
Public Affairs party and that more changes in the cabinet would be made
in due time. He moreover stressed that even had it not been for the
present scandal Interior Minister Radek John would have been dismissed
for poor performance anyway.

The party leadership on Saturday expressed full support for the
conditions set down by Prime Minister Petr Necas particularly that of
cleansing the cabinet of people linked directly or indirectly with the
detective agency ABL. Both the Civic Democrats and the second party in
government TOP 09 have indicated that they would be prepared to
continue working in coalition with Public Affairs but only with a
cleansed party, with people who would not act as puppets to the present
leaders. One of the options also on the table is that the Civic
Democrats and TOP 09 could continue as a minority government with
support from some Public Affairs or former Public Affairs deputies.
However it is not clear how many would be willing to do that. Although
the Public Affairs Party has now ostensible closed ranks around its
leaders - its members' allegiances are uncertain as is the situation
within the party.

President Klaus says action needed

President Vaclav Klaus said in his first official reaction to the
government crisis on Saturday that the situation was very grave and
that some kind of "regrouping" within the government was clearly
needed. He did not specify what kind of regrouping he had in mind. The
president said it seemed to him that that this crisis had been
triggered intentionally and was premeditated and he could only hope
that whoever was behind it knew the way out of this crisis. The
president said that he was closely monitoring developments and would be
ready to accept the resignation of one or more ministers, depending on
the turn of events.

Koci says Public Affairs resembles religious sect

Krystina Koci, the former head of the Public Affairs deputies club in
Parliament, who was expelled for "violating party ethics" after
reporting to the police that Mr. Barta had attempted to bribe her with
half a million crowns, told Saturday's Lidove Noviny that the party was
run like a religious sect in which Mr. Barta was a cult figure and
unchallenged leader. Ms. Koci said that Mr. Barta ordered what was to
be done down to the last detail, masterminding her appearances in the
media as well as those of the official party leader, former TV
journalist Radek John. She claims that it was Vit Barta, not Radek
John, who ran the Interior Ministry and that Radek John was little more
than a mascot, a well- known TV personality who helped Mr. Barta win
votes in the elections. Paradoxically, the Public Affairs party,
established shortly before the elections, did unexpectedly well in them
on a strong anti-corruption agenda.

Chropyn blaze still raging

Firefighters have managed to contain a raging fire at a plastic waste
disposal factory in the town of Chropyn. The emergency operation lasted
for two days after a series of gas explosions on the site of the plant
fuelled the fire further. Three hundred people living in the close
vicinity were evacuated on Friday after heavy toxic fumes filled the
air. It is not clear when they will be able to return to their homes.
Forty fire crews were called to the site of the accident.

Prague's annual Easter market opens on Old Town Square

Prague's main Easter market opened on Saturday on Old Town Square with
over 90 stalls selling traditional Easter decorations, local
specialties and souvenirs. Over the next fortnight locals and tourists
will be able to enjoy outdoor theatre performances, live music and
workshops at which people can try their hand at various arts and crafts.


The coming days are expected to be clear and sunny with daytime highs
at around 15 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

From Karel Capek to Graham Greene: a Scottish poet's memories of Prague

In a recent edition of Czech Books we looked at the Prague-inspired
poetry of the Scottish poet, Edwin Muir. But it was not just in his
poetry that Muir evoked the atmosphere of the Czech capital. David
Vaughan finds out more in this week's Czech Books.

September 1938: last-minute appeals for moderation as Hitler builds
upforces on the Czech border

This week we continue our look into the dramatic events in
Czechoslovakia just before World War Two. By the summer of 1938,
Hitler's Germany was demanding nothing less than the immediate
annexation of the entire Sudetenland - all parts of Bohemia and Moravia
with a German speaking majority. The Sudeten German Party had made big
gains among German speakers in local elections earlier that year, and
the Nazi rhetoric of their leaders was unambiguous.

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