Daily news summary News Sunday, FEBRUARY 01th, 1998

01-02-1998

HAVEL-OATH

President Vaclav Havel, who was re-elected earlier this month to serve his second and last term in office, will be sworn in at Monday's joint session of both houses of the Czech parliament.

Havel is to stay in office for five years and under the Czech Constitution, he cannot run for a third time. His term expires in January 2003.

Havel was re-elected in a second round of voting, after a determined opposition of at least a fifth of the Lower House and some key members of the Senate. Among his opponents are mainly the Communists, the far-right Republicans, and some members of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus's former ruling party ODS.

SOCDEM-GOVERNMENT

The main opposition Czech Social Democrats, who are widely expected to win the early elections tentatively scheduled for June, on Saturday nominated their leader Milos Zeman as the future prime minister.

Zeman announced plans on Saturday for setting up four special committees in the cabinet they are planning to form.

Recent public opinion polls show the Social Democrats will not be able to establish one-party rule and will have to strike a coalition deal, probably with the Christian Democrats.

The committees will be on social, national security, economic and legislative policies.

Mr Zeman proposed to the top management of his party three nominees for the key post of election campaign manager. One of them is a highly controversial former ranking member of the Communist Party, Miroslav Slouf.

Mr Slouf masterminded the 1996 Social Democratic campaign, leading to that party's significant gains.

ODS-MANAGER-DEBT

A private Czech television suggested on Friday night that the newly appointed campaign manager of the former ruling ODS owes more than five million crowns to a business company.

Twenty-six-year-old Ludek Nezmar was elected by the ODS leadership last week. Ex-premier Vaclav Klaus maintains his party did know about the debt, which Nezmar says is due to his secondary insolvency.

Mr Nezmar said he will make a public statement on Monday.

The ODS-led coalition government resigned late last year over a series of party-financing scandals.

CZECH-GENERAL-USA

The First Deputy Chief-of-Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, Major General Rostislav Kotil, has arrived in Washington at the start of a week-long visit to the United States.

Kotil, who is in America at the invitation of the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Ralston, plans to visit military installations in Texas, Florida and Virginia.

He will also hold talks with General Ralston and senior Pentagon officials. Our correspondent says they will discuss the Czech Army's readiness to join NATO. US officials have recently pointed out a number of shortcomings on the Czech side.

The Czech Republic, together with Hungary and Poland, are widely believed to become NATO members in 1999.

CZECH-REPS-NATO

The far-right Czech Republican Party said on Saturday it collected more than 200 signatures for its anti-NATO petition in a single day and on a single place in Prague.

Republican officials claimed the two and a half month-old petition against Czech membership in NATO has been signed by over 10,000 people.

The Republicans oppose the move citing the high cost of integration, the country's bad experience with military blocs, and their devotion to the idea of Czech neutrality.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Government minister Miloslav Vyborny, chief of the cabinet's Legislative Council, on Saturday called for a much stricter enforcement of the country's criminal code.

He was speaking in the wake of a gruesome incident in a Czech youth correctional institution on Thursday in which a 16-year- old inmate bludgeoned a female warden to death and seriously injured her colleague. The injured woman was reported to be still in a coma on Saturday.

The killer, a drug addict, was taken into custody on Friday, pending trial.

CZECH-WEATHER

A quick look at the weather -- and after a freezing night, with temperatures up to minus 17 degrees Centigrade in some Czech localities, Sunday's daytime highs will stay comfortably under freezing point, moving in the vicinity of minus eight to minus four degrees.

And that's the end of the news.

01-02-1998