Press Review

18-10-2002 | Rob Cameron

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Choosing a successor to President Vaclav Havel continues to make headlines today. All the papers report on a new opinion poll showing that the vast majority of people - 85 percent to be exact - want to choose their president themselves, rather than let parliament decide for them. The idea was recently revived by the right-of-centre Civic Democrats - who originally rejected it - as the only way to get party leader Vaclav Klaus installed at Prague Castle.

But interestingly, the survey suggested that contrary to popular belief Mr Klaus would actually stand little chance of winning a direct vote, if indeed it's ever held. It was one of the Social Democrats' four candidates - the popular Ombudsman Otakar Motejl - who topped the poll, with 27 percent of respondents saying they'd vote for him. Mr Klaus failed even to make second place, coming in third after Senate chairman Petr Pithart.

The findings might not mean much, but they do provide a good insight as to whom the papers want to see as president: PRAVO, which is close to the ruling Social Democrats, has a smiling Otakar Motejl on its front page. Meanwhile MLADA FRONTA DNES, increasingly loyal to the Civic Democrats, has buried the story on page 3, and barely mentions Mr Klaus's poor performance in the poll.

One candidate who refuses to run in a direct vote is former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who's featured in many of the papers today. MLADA FRONTA DNES reports on how he's spending his retirement at his cottage in south-east Bohemia, and it's thrilling stuff - Mr Zeman spends his days walking in the woods, reading, and eating toasted sandwiches.

Never a dull moment, clearly, but the former PM says he's never felt better: my mental health is excellent, he says, because I no longer reads the papers. He's also made some important changes to his diet - abandoning his beloved cigarettes for a pipe, and drinking Plzen beer because it's good for his kidney stones...

Moving on, and a curious case for the police in PRAVO today. "Pig Stealing Gang Arrested" says the paper, reporting on an eight-member gang in the West Bohemia area who were apprehended after a three-month pig-stealing spree. The gang was a family operation, consisting of eight men aged from 17 to 59, most of them related. The pig thieves terrorised local farms, and once made off with an incredible haul of six pigs, each of which weighed half a tonne. They also stole goats.

Those of you who have to use Prague's I. P. Pavlova metro and tram stop will no doubt be grimly familiar with the daily scenes of chaos, as irate tram drivers try to fight their way through the lines of stationary cars on the main highway. On Thursday, says MLADA FRONTA DNES, the situation came to a head, when a bus collided with and derailed a tram. Eleven people were taken to hospital, and traffic in the area was paralysed, or more accurately, paralysed even further.

The paper's Prague section carries widespread coverage of the crash and its aftermath, with some tram drivers blaming the police for not doing enough to keep the tram lines through I. P. Pavlova clear. But it wasn't the only tram crash on Thursday - there were a total of 10 yesterday afternoon, four of them in the space of one hour.

But there is some good news for Prague's overburdened transport system, still struggling to cope with the aftermath of the floods: the Florenc metro station, says MLADA FRONTA DNES, reopens on Saturday - three cheers for that.

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