Czech lower house votes for new ombudsman, runoff to be held later today
Today the Czech lower house decided, in the first round of secret voting to choose the country's next ombudsman, that Stanislav Křeček, a former Deputy Public Defender of Rights, and Vít Alexander Schorm, the Czech Government's legal representative before the European Court of Human Rights, will proceed to the next round of voting after Křeček won 66 votes and Schorm won 40. A third candidate, the attorney Jan Matys, was chosen by 20 lawmakers.
The vote was attended by 179 members of the lower house and 90 votes were needed for a winner; the runoff will take place at 18:00 today. Křeček was nominated by the Czech President, while Matys and Schorm were nominated by the Czech Senate.
During floor debate ahead of the vote, the Chamber of Deputies was agitated by a statement from Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) to the effect that the director of the NGO People in Need (Člověk v tísni), Šimon Pánek, had sent threatening text messages to some of the party chairs. Foldyna alleged that the NGO director told the party chairs that if they elect Křeček, they will have "problems".
Moreover, Foldyna described Pánek's organization as "allegedly aiding people". Several party chairs - Markéta Adamová Pekárková (TOP 09), Petr Fiala (Civic Democratic Party - ODS), Vít Rakušan (Mayors - Starostové), Ivan Bartoš (Pirates - Piráti) and Marian Jurečka (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL) - immediately reacted to say they had received no such message.
ČSSD then distanced itself from Foldyna's remarks about People in Need. ČSSD vice-chair Ondřej Veselý said Foldyna had been expressing his personal opinion, not that of the party.
"ČSSD is fully aware of what kind of work People in Need performs in the Czech Republic and in the world," he said. The six-year mandate of the current Public Defender of Rights, Anna Šabatová, will end on 18 February.
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