27-03-2002

We'll begin on a serious note today - because what can be more serious than winning a 110 million crown jackpot in the lottery? Who will be 100 million crowns richer this evening? A question which not only the papers but the entire nation can't wait to hear the answer to. Lottery fever has gripped the Czech Republic hard and the papers say that people who have never before filled in a lottery ticket have joined in the game, spurred on by the vision of astronomical winnings and how the money could change their lives.

Professional bookmakers have not been tempted Pravo says, but most people can't resist daydreaming and don't stop to figure out how small the chances of a win actually are. Those who would normally bet three hundred crowns are investing two thousand. We'll know the lucky winner tonight - but we can tell you who's already won - and that is the Sazka lottery firm, says Mlada fronta Dnes.

Meanwhile, Czech politicians have set their sights on a different victory and the papers report that campaigning for the June 15th general elections is now in full swing. There is a renewed controversy over the post-war Benes decrees, which most political commentators ascribe to the fact that election campaigns are taking place in three central European states. Czech politicians have embraced the controversial Benes decrees as a lucrative election card and the papers note that their rhetoric has become tougher than ever.

Lidove noviny says that, regrettably, nationalism has become an important issue in these elections and Czech politicians are trying to outdo one another in suggesting possible posthumous awards for the former president Benes, as a defender of Czech national interests. The whole debate is beginning to resemble a farce, says the paper.

When the Civic Democrats came up with the idea that the former president could be given the T.G. Masaryk award, the rival Social Democratic party suggested he get the Order of the White Lion, an award which the former president received in 1936. The Social Democrat senator who goofed was not fazed by this discovery. "So what, he'll have two orders," he told Lidove noviny.

Mlada fronta Dnes notes that unless politicians show some sense, the reconciliation agreement reached between the Czech Republic and Germany five years ago will lose all value. Given the recent cross border exchanges, one wonders if it is still valid today, the paper notes.

The papers have also devoted considerable space to the outcome of an opinion poll which reveals that the vast majority of Czechs expect the state to be a guarantor of economic prosperity. Hospodarske noviny reports that over 75 % of Czechs think taxes should not be lowered, and that the rich should be made to pay higher taxes.

Consequently, the Civic Democrats and the centre-right 2-party coalition which are proposing lower taxes as part of their election campaign are not getting the kind of audience they envisaged, says Lidove noviny. The outcome of the mentioned survey suggests that Czechs are still cautious about embracing capitalism, the paper notes, but in reality they are cautious not of capitalism as they see it in the West today but of the brand they've been living in for the past twelve years. That should give politicians food for thought and ammunition for the coming elections, the author concludes.

27-03-2002