Czech police are investigating a lucrative public tender being prepared by the Education Ministry, Lidové noviny (LN) reported on Tuesday, adding that detectives from the South Bohemia department of the police’s anti-corruption unit raided the ministry’s premises in Prague last week, confiscating computers and documents. Analysts said the tender may have been tailor-made for a predetermined winner.
Last week after the coalition government’s draft bill to change the Constitution to enable direct presidential elections was submitted to the lower house for a second reading, Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil (Civic Democrats, ODS), and the deputy prime minister for anti-corruption and deputy head of the Public Affairs party (VV), Karolína Peake, said the chances of the draft legislation being passed is fifty–fifty.
The government has endorsed the composition and statutes of its new anti-corruption commission, to be headed by Karolína Peake (VV) and comprise seven ministers, including Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra (ODS) and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) — whom the VV party was calling upon to resign just months ago. A crucial test of Peake’s resolve to fight corruption will come in late August.
MP Vít Bárta (Public Affairs, VV), the former transport minister pushed to resign over allegations he had bribed fellow party members to remain loyal to him and his political agenda, has been named head of the VV’s parliamentary club. Meanwhile, the police have asked the lower house of Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) to lift Bárta’s immunity so that he can face criminal prosecution.
Last Monday’s papers were full of headlines declaring the end of the three-party coalition government was nigh. The conflict was indeed bitter, but the “gruesome end” of which TOP 09’s leader Karel Schwarzenberg spoke didn’t occur. Intensive negotiations between ODS and VV leaders took place from Monday through Thursday — without the participation of TOP 09 — alongside separate talks between PM Petr Nečas (ODS) and VV leaders. The result was an amendment to the coalition agreement, signed by the party leaders on June 30.
In marked contrast to his long delay in accepting de facto Public Affairs (VV) leader Vít Bárta’s resignation as Transport Minister, President Václav Klaus has confirmed the appointment of Bárta’s party colleagues Karolína Peake as Deputy Prime Minister, and Pavel Dobeš as Transport Minister, in a brief ceremony at Prague Castle. Coalition leaders agreed on a last-minute compromise Thursday night.
The leaders of the three ruling coalition parties failed to agree to a new coalition agreement after four hours of talks on Sunday. Public Affairs (VV), the smallest of the three, still says it will leave the coalition if amendments to the coalition agreement are not endorsed by June 30. Center-right TOP 09 says the current coalition agreement is still valid and will not negotiate any personnel changes.
Wrangles over taxes and gaming machines blocked Czech government parties from sealing a new deal to keep them together. The smallest party in the coalition, Public Affairs (VV), is still threatening to walk out of the government if its demands are not met. That could leave the government led by Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) without a majority — and the country facing early elections.
Public Affairs (VV) first deputy chairwoman Karolína Peake says another naughty calendar featuring half-naked female MPs might be called for to boost lagging party support before the next elections if the Czech public cannot be convinced of the party's achievements. With VV still threatening to walk out of the government — and perhaps spark early elections — a 2012 calendar could be a real prospect.
Public Affairs (VV) continued the tension and uncertainty at the heart of the three-way Czech coalition government by setting an end of the month deadline for its demands to be added to the government agreement. The Civic Democrats (ODS) and TOP 09 have asked for a clarification of its demands but know that VV is unlikely to want early elections.