24-11-2003

Georgia, photo: CTKGeorgia, photo: CTK The dramatic weekend events in Georgia culminating in the resignation of President Eduard Sevarnadze fill the front pages of all Czech dailies. "Georgia's Velvet Revolution" reads the lead headline in today's Lidove Noviny. All the papers sport pictures of thousand-strong demonstrations in Tbilisi, reminiscent of the street protests that led to the fall of communism in former Czechoslovakia in 1989.

The papers carry detailed reports of the ethnic conflicts and civil war which racked and impoverished the Black Sea Republic after the fall of the Soviet empire. Shevarnadze's departure marks the end of an era, says Mlada Fronta Dnes, featuring a portrait of the former president from his years in the limelight as the former Soviet President' Michail Gorbachev's chief ally, pro-Western politician and perestroika advocate to the broken man he is today - resented by his people and seen as a symbol of the country's bankrupt economy, widespread corruption and the arrogance of power.

On the domestic front, the papers focus on the weekend party conference of the opposition Civic Democrats, at which the strongest opposition party pledged to overthrow the government as soon as possible. It was an effective show of muscle flexing, but little more, says Hospodarske Noviny. Lidove Noviny is of the same opinion.

The Civic Democrats may claim that they would rule the country better, given the opportunity. But it is clear to one and all that they are unlikely to get it for some time yet, the paper says. This obligatory attack on the governing coalition is no more than you would expect to hear at an opposition party conference, commentators conclude.

Not even a speech at the conference by the new Christian Democrat leader, Miroslav Kalousek, would suggest any pending change. Although under Kalousek's leadership the chances of a possible future coalition with the Civic Democrats are believed to be higher, the man himself has made no promises, and it seems that he is using his present position in the limelight in a way as increase his party's weight in the present governing coalition rather than helping the opposition Civic Democrats, says Lidove Noviny.

On a different topic, Mlada Fronta Dnes has devoted a full page to the travel expenses of parliament deputies and senators. "Parliament ltd. - the country's most expensive travel agency" mocks the paper. It notes that Czech senators and MPs do a great deal of travelling to exotic locations every year - trips costing many millions of crowns - but it is generally extremely difficult to ascertain what their mission is and whether or not it has been fulfilled.

Travelling is one of the perks of the job, says Mlada Fronta Dnes - what is worse is that there appear to be few or no responsibilities linked to it. The paper carries photos of Parliament's biggest "globetrotters" with an example of a typical day's agenda on a trip abroad. The article is sure to make an impression on readers, coming at a time of steep cuts in public spending.

24-11-2003