News

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Svejnar to decide on presidential bid by end of next week

Jan Svejnar has said he will decide by the end of next week whether to stand for president of the Czech Republic. Mr Svejnar, a respected US-based economist, told Czech Television he would come to a decision after holding talks with representatives of the parties in Parliament. The Social Democrats, the Greens and most European Democrat senators have already said they would back him in a contest with the incumbent Vaclav Klaus in early February. Mr Svejnar, who emigrated from communist Czechoslovakia in 1970, said he would have no objections to the support of the present-day Communist Party; their backing could be crucial if he is to succeed Mr Klaus.

Svejnar candidature would represent conflict of interest, says Necas

Meanwhile, the minister of labour, Petr Necas, a Civic Democrat party colleague of President Klaus's, said if Jan Svejnar does stand it will be a copy-book example of conflict of interest. Since 2003 Mr Svejnar has been chairman of the supervisory board of CSOB bank, which is involved in a CZK 30-billion arbitration case with the Czech state. Speaking on a TV debate show, Mr Necas said he was very much shocked that anybody could consider Mr Svejnar as a serious candidate for president, adding that the economist should have quit his CSOB post some time ago if he planned to run for the post of head of state.

Police break up skinhead concert

Police broke up a rock concert attended by around 120 skinheads in a hotel in Nove Hamry, west Bohemia on Saturday night. Over 100 officers intervened when one of the participating bands performed a song with anti-Semitic lyrics; it was a cover version of a song written by a now-banned Slovak far-right group. Two policemen were injured in clashes with the skinheads and six arrests were made.

Supreme state attorney wants investigation into leak of material from Cunek case

The supreme state attorney, Renata Vesecka, plans to ask Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to have the civilian counter-intelligence service BIS investigate a leak from police and state attorney offices. Outgoing deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek said material suggesting he had abused the social welfare system had leaked from a police investigation into alleged bribe-taking. Speaking on Czech Television, the supreme state attorney said such revelations constituted abuse of office. Mr Cunek resigned on Thursday, citing the reopening of an investigation into the alleged bribe-taking. His move came days after TV reports that the Christian Democrats leader had received social welfare payments while at the same time having millions of crowns in different bank accounts.

Cunek to discuss future as head of Christian Democrats at national conference

Meanwhile, Jiri Cunek says he will discuss his future as chairman of the Christian Democrats at a national party conference on Tuesday. Mr Cunek said on a TV debate programme that he did not wish to remain head of a party in which the majority of members did not support him. Senator Cunek is set to quit both cabinet posts on Wednesday. The Christian Democrats will name their choice to succeed him within the next two weeks.

Minister wins award for fighting bureaucracy

The minister of industry and trade, Martin Riman, is to receive this year's award for fighting bureaucracy from the association eStat.cz. The prize is given for systematically battling excessive red-tape, particularly in the business sphere. eStat.cz's Ivo Prokes said Mr Riman merited the 2007 award for a proposed amendment to the law governing self-employment. Mr Prokes said the new bill limited the excessive powers of trades licensing offices, which can often influence whether the self-employed are successful or not, and returns that power to the market.

Pesek fourth in season's 125cc championship

The Czech motorcyclist Lukas Pesek has finished fourth overall in this season's 125cc championship. Pesek, who is 21, came fifth in the last Grand Prix race of the year in Valencia. The Czech rider needed to come first in the race if he was to come third in the championship.

Actors hold unusual "sports" event in Prague centre

Visitors to the centre of Prague on Sunday were given the opportunity to take part in an original Czech "sport" called woodkopf, which involves two people with wooden boards on their heads take one another on. The light-hearted event was organised by a group of theatre actors, who have called for woodkopf to be included in the Olympic Games if Prague wins a competition to host the event in 2016. Actor Vladimir Cech, who has been playing for four years, said it was as integral to Czech culture as beer and knedlo zelo vepro (dumplings, cabbage and pork); one day, he said, woodkopf will be regarded internationally as a Czech word.

Weather

It should be cloudy with some spells of sunshine and rain over the next few days. Temperatures will reach a maximum of 8 degrees Celsius.