With less than a month to go to the June general elections, Czech politicians are spending more time in the streets of Prague than in their offices and all the papers carry lengthy reports about their activities, rivals and chances in the elections.
Lidove noviny slams the Social Democrat Cabinet for allegedly handing out gifts from state coffers in order to increase its popularity in the run up to the elections. After years of begging for state funds in order to complete local projects, regional administrations are suddenly getting what they have been asking for, says Lidove noviny.
Like a generous patron, the Social Democrat Cabinet is travelling around the country handing out gifts - money for a new highway, for a planned extension of the Prague underground, for re-cultivation of land damaged by years of mining or for the re-location of a whole railway station. Nothing seems too much to ask, but the hitch is that these pre-election gifts are being financed from state coffers and that voters themselves will eventually foot the bill, says Lidove noviny.
Meanwhile, the Social Democrats' main rival - the opposition Civic Democratic Party headed by Vaclav Klaus is certainly not throwing money around. "Others give you leaflets which you'll drop in the bin but we'll give you a booklet which will enrich your library," Mr. Klaus reportedly told an assembled crowd on Wenceslas Square on Wednesday. The booklet is Mr. Klaus' latest literary work called " Why I'm still in the ring" and is being handed out for free at various rallies.
"I don't know if that's very smart," Lidove noviny quotes Mr. Klaus as saying. "This seems to downgrade its value. Maybe we should have asked three crowns for it or three Euros perhaps?"
The main rival parties - the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats stand out in the election fray and Pravo notes that only a deal between them could produce a really strong government. The centre right Coalition - a potential partner for both - has further damaged its chances in the elections by more infighting and the communists remain in political isolation, the paper says.
The Catholic church has received an unusual amount of attention in the papers today. This is partly due to the news that the archbishop of Olomouc Jan Graubner will be serving a special mass at a gathering for the Sudeten German Landsmanshaft in Norimberg - in what he calls an attempt to improve Czech-German cross-border cooperation. Many Czechs - including top politicians - are not happy about the arch-bishop's participation at the gathering which traditionally provokes anti-Czech sentiments over sensitive SWW issues and Pravo has quizzed the arch-bishop about his stand regarding the controversial Benes decrees.
Meanwhile Mlada fronta Dnes carries a full page interview with Cardinal Miloslav Vlk on the eve of his 70th birthday. The Cardinal talks openly about the challenge of spreading God's word in one of the most secular societies in Europe, about what he calls efforts to marginalize the role of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic and sensitive issues such as abortions and pedophilia within the Church.
The Cardinal told the paper that he himself had been born out of wedlock and that his mother had withstood pressure for her to have an abortion. I will be forever grateful that she gave me the gift of life - and I admit that this fact has influenced my stand on abortions, Cardinal Vlk told the paper in an unusually open interview.
And finally - Pravo has some astonishing news for readers. It seems that Czechs are giving up beer and drinking more wine and soft drinks. Only a few years ago Sunday lunch without beer would have been unthinkable, Pravo says, but now an increasing number of Czechs are opting for a glass of quality wine, mineral water or fruit juice. This is the influence of Western lifestyle, the paper says, Czechs are more health conscious and they have developed a taste for wine.
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