30-05-2002

The resignation of Prague's mayor Jan Kasl and his decision to leave the Civic Democratic Party is splashed across all of today's front pages as commentators speculate about how this bombshell could effect the outcome of the June general elections. "Klaus says: it's a new Sarajevo", reads the lead headline in Mlada fronta Dnes, a reference to the time when other Civic Democrat Party members broke ranks to establish a new party of their own, away from the domineering party leader Vaclav Klaus who was on a working trip to Sarajevo at the time.

The Kasl scandal- as the papers call it- has somewhat overshadowed defense minister Jaroslav Tvrdik's battle in the Senate for new fighter jets for the Czech Air Force. Lidove noviny carries a snapshot of an exhausted looking Tvrdik, fingers pressed to his temples, clearly at a loss as to what more he can say or do to ensure that Friday's vote swings in favour of the purchase. The paper says that minister Tvrdik's pivotal argument in favour of the new fighter jets was that Russia could one day be a potential threat.

After several senators argued against the purchase, on the grounds that the potential security risk from the East had been further reduced by the establishment of the NATO-Russia council, the minister is said to have countered "I shouldn't need to remind you gentlemen that after the September 11th terrorist attacks against the US, the Russian Security Council advised President Putin not to join the US-led war against terrorism."

The papers report that the defense minister arrived in the Senate flanked by SWW veteran pilots who made their own impassioned appeal to the Senate not to leave Czech airspace unprotected, which is what would happen if the Air Force does not acquire a new fleet of fighter jets. Pravo notes that the governing Social Democrats have given senators one final incentive - a promise that if the Senate approves the finances for the purchase then the signing of the contract will be left to the new government.

It is not often that the papers are in full agreement on a certain aspect of political life - but today they all agree that the parties' radio and television advertisements for the June elections are amateurish, boring and counter-productive. Anyone who switches on their TV during the day is likely to fall asleep, says Mlada fronta Dnes. Czech Public Television, whose job it is to screen the ads, has emphasized that it is not responsible for their content - and has placed most of them in morning, afternoon and late-night slots -where they are least likely to irritate the public.

And, last but certainly not least, the paper reports that the police have finally detained the man who last Thursday threatened to carry out terrorist attacks against three high-rise buildings in the Moravian metropolis of Brno. The twenty nine year old unemployed man, who has admitted to having made the calls, said he did so because he hated the police. The close to 2,000 people working in those buildings will finally breathe a sign of relief, the paper says. The whole area was under heavy police security and there were several evacuations since last Thursday.

30-05-2002