In the News 10.3.08

Klaus begins a second term and more CzechNews...

Written by Pavel Vondra
Aktuálně.cz CzechNews

 



TAKING HIS SECOND OATH OF OFFICE last Friday, President Václav Klaus said he did “not want to be a mover” at the local political scene.

“The head of Czech state has significant powers. Traditionally, the office is held in high esteem, enjoys respect and influence. I will continue to be careful in using the powers given to me by the constitution, and rather conservative,” said Mr. Klaus in his inaugural speech, repeating his pre-election promises (or threats?).

Although still largely popular with the public, the latest approval ratings published last week show that the president’s support dwindled by about ten per cent over the last year on the average.

Rather alarmingly for someone who styles himself as the president of the people, Mr. Klaus seems to be losing touch with his fellow citizens. Only 36 per cent of those asked thought he was aware and understanding of their problems.

***

Sadly, we will never know what was on the mind of a 28-year old man who climbed over the fence of the Lány Castle, place of retreat for Czech(oslovak) presidents since the times of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, on Saturday night, when president Klaus was staying there.

Alarmed by the sight of the intruder on CCTV, the Castle guard caught up with the man in a technical building where the staff is accommodated, overpowered him and handcuffed him. Next thing we know, he was dead, a police spokesperson told Aktuálně.cz.

The incident is being investigated. The man was allegedly intoxicated and the police believe drugs might have been a factor in his death. More will be known after an autopsy is performed.

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The problem of a drug abuse in the Czech Republic has been highlighted in a recent UN report on the global consumption of narcotic substances.

Czechs received a dishonorable mention as leaders in the production and consumption of methamphetamine. Marijuana also remains popular here, the report noted, and cocaine has been making inroads, although not as much as in Western Europe.

***

Member of Czech Parliament Evžen Snítilý was definitely kicked out of the Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) last week for helping president Klaus win re-election.

29 colleagues of his in the local ČSSD organization in Náchod voted to strip him of his membership with only seven being against.
Snítilý said he respected the decision of the party, but defended his own during the presidential ballot.

“If I was to vote for the president today, I would support Václav Klaus again. I have nothing to be ashamed of” he said. Snítilý never explained why he broke the ranks of ČSSD in the February vote, but categorically denied bribery had anything to do with it.

***

More political fights are on the horizon with the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-ČSL) insisting on the right of their leader Jiří Čunek to return to the government which he left last year over the allegations of bribery and welfare abuse.

Their fellow junior coalition partner Green Party do not like the idea, feeling Mr. Čunek’s comeback could tarnish the image of the cabinet.

In the meantime Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) says it is up to the two parties to settle the dispute, cunningly preferring to stay neutral, devoting more time to badmouthing future world leaders and awarding his childhood heroes than to playing a role of a mediator, whom the three-way coalition apparently badly needs.

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***

The new version of the Czech car-maker Škoda’s latest model, Superb, made its world debut at the Geneva International Motor Show this week. It is to hit the Czech market next June.

The price for the basic version with a gasoline motor of the 1.4 liter volume is to be 619,000 CZK, Škoda Auto spokesperson said. It equals 28,5 average monthly salaries in the Czech Republic.

One who surely doesn’t need to worry about the down payment, if he ever wanted to have one of those, is Petr Kellner, the Czech entrepreneur who has been the richest Czech for quite some time and last week ranked as the 91st richest person on the planet, according to the Forbes magazine, with his fortune estimated at 9,3 billion USD.

He added three billion dollars to his name over the last year, capitalizing mostly on what has been described as the deal of his life, i.e. merger of the crown jewel of his PPF empire, the Česká pojišťovna insurance company, with the holdings of Generali insurance giant in the central and eastern Europe. 

***

In the meantime, Albrecht of Waldstein (or Wallenstein), who would certainly be appearing in the Forbes list of millionaires too if there had been one in his time, i.e. 17th century, proved his worth by attracting nearly 150 thousand visitors to the recent major exhibition dedicated to his complex personality, the organizers said, making the show one of the most successful projects of this type in living memory.

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Aiming to attract about half of that number in just nine days, the One World film festival began last week in Prague. With 138 movies about human rights to be screen in just nine days and a number of prominent guests from among film-makers and activists, it is celebrating its tenth anniversary in big style.

Václav Havel was there for the kick-off and he is bound to be there for the closing ceremony too as the festival’s beloved godfather and patron, unless he gets held up by putting together the global dissident organization he dreamed up last week.

***

Ending on a golden note (once again), our congratulations go to Martina Sáblíková, who defended the title of the world champion on a 5-kilometer speed skating track in Nagano, Japan on Sunday, leaving her rivals far behind with track record breaking time of 6:58,22 and confirming her status of the top Czech athlete of the day.


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