Chairman of Czech upper house of parliament dies

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Jaroslav Kubera, the chairman of the Czech upper house of parliament, died on Monday morning, the chamber’s spokeswoman said. He was 72.

Kubera gave a speech at his party’s congress during the weekend and was not known to be suffering from a serious illness.

The head of the upper house, the Senate, is the second highest public official in the European Union country after the president.

Kubera, a long-time popular mayor of the northern spa town of Teplice known for his frank talk and common-sense approach to politics, was liked by many as well as despised by opponents.

The chain-smoking politician never shied from controversial views and always stood for traditional right-wing, anti-regulatory policies.

“I liked him. We had a good relation and mutual understanding, he was very funny,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kubera’s political opponent, said on Czech Television.

“His election to the Senate chairmanship gave the Senate an altogether different dynamic,” he said.

In recent weeks, Kubera was in the news for his plan to visit Taiwan next month despite protests from the country’s pro-Chinese president, Milos Zeman, as well as China.

Kubera was known for his opposition to policies to fight climate change, in line with a common view among his center-right, opposition Civic Democrats.

In a speech to the party congress on Saturday, he said: “To raise doubt is the basic science method, therefore I talk about electromobility so much. It did not evolve by technology but through pressure on car makers from Brussels, where they come up with more and more regulation.”

The Senate chairmanship position will be temporarily filled by Deputy Chairman Jiri Ruzicka, elected from a coalition comprising the TOP09 and STAN parties.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Toby Chopra and Bernadette Baum