Prague, Jan 5 (CTK) – Most of the 81 Czech senators or 74 percent have another job, they run their own businesses and work as doctors, teachers and town mayors, and due to their busy schedule they often do not attend votes, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote on Thursday.

On average, a quarter of senators are absent from votes in the Senate, the upper house of Czech parliament, established in 1996.

The basic monthly salary of a senator is 71,000 crowns to which they can add financial perks of up to 43,000 crowns for their assistants, offices in regions and travel costs.

The average pay in the Czech Republic is some 27,000 crowns now.

“Absolutely everyone admits that it is better to receive two salaries than only one. A citizen saying I take one salary unrightfully would definitely not have voted for me,” Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) senator Jiri Cunek, who became a regional governor with a monthly pay of 84,000 crowns, told the paper.

The daily writes that Cunek as well as many other senators stress their professional experience from other occupations that, they say, can be reflected in their work in the Senate and their voting.

However, not all senators share this view.

“I cannot imagine having another full-time job. Nothing else should be as important for a senator as voting at the plenary session,” Civic Democrat (ODS) senator group head Milan Vystrcil, who has never been absent from a vote, told MfD.

But he is rather an exception, the paper adds.

A Senate session is usually held once a month. Despite that, the senators’ absence from sessions is high.

According to information from the Senate website, five senators were absent from a half of all votes and some did not attend even more than two-thirds of them.

Yet even those who travel to Prague for the Senate sessions from regions only rarely receive across-the-board contributions to travel costs directly to their account, MfD writes.

The senators with a high share of absences argue that they regularly attend the Senate committees’ meetings dealing with all important issues and bills.

“However, it is a vote at the plenary session that decides on whether a bill will be passed or not,” political scientist Kamil Gregor told MfD.

This situation plays into the hands of various critics of the Senate’s existence, including President Milos Zeman, MfD says.

Zeman points to a very low turnout in Senate elections, which, he, says shows that people do not respect the upper house.

After the last October elections to one-third of the Senate, Finance Minister and ANO chairman Andrej Babis called the upper house unnecessary.

On the other hand, experts point out that the Senate is an important constitutional safeguard. It has managed to avert a number of controversial decisions by the lower house, for instance, the planned purchase of Gripen fighters for dozens of billions of crowns, which the Czech military leased eventually for a much lower price, MfD writes.