News Friday, JULY 10th, 1998

Radio Prague E News Date: 10.7.98 Written / Read by: Pauline Newman

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, first we start with a look at the main headlines of the Day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague, those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Havel / Zeman

Czech President Vaclav Havel said on Thursday evening that he would most likely name Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman Premier designate. This comes after the two biggest Czech parties signed a deal allowing Zeman to form a minority government.

Speaking to journalists after meeting the Social Democrat leader on Thursday afternoon, Havel said: "I will, with the greatest likelihood, name Milos Zeman the new Premier".

The agreement was signed on Thursday, and allows the centre-left Social Democrats to form a minority government three weeks after an inconclusive general election. The Social Democrats, who topped the poll in the elections, but were left far short of a majority, and the second placed Civic Democratic Party, the ODS, agreed that the ODS would not try to bring down the government throughout its four year term.

Under the deal, the Social Democrats and the ODS also decided to propose changes to the constitution within twelve months. They gave no details, but there has been much speculation that they would propose a change in the electoral system from the current proportional representation agreement which means the political scene is perpetually fragmented.

President Havel, however, has made it clear that he will have the agreement examined by legal experts before he takes any concrete steps. This comes after many critics called it undemocratic.

Milos Zeman said after talking to Mr Havel, that the agreement was the only way to bring stability to the fragmented Czech political scene. He added that it had been approved only after the smaller parties had rejected offers of co-operation.

Neagtive Reactions

In the meantime, President Havel's office says it opposes the deal. Jiri Pehe, head of the President's political department said Mr Havel was not happy about the agreement at all. Mr Pehe also said: "It seems to me that it goes against some basic principles of Parliamentary democracy so that needs to be clarified". He added that Havel, whose role is largely ceremonial, would abide by the results and name Milos Zeman, Premier designate.

The deal has indeed come under plenty of fire on all sides. It effectively sidelines the smaller parties, such as the centrist Christian democrats, led by Josef Lux and Jan Ruml's right wing Freedom Union.

Joseph Lux on Thursday afternoon, called the deal "undemocratic and unconstitutional". He immediately went to visit President Havel to make his objections known.

Jan Ruml also opposes the arrangement. He says that although the President will have to obey the constitution and name Milos Zeman Premier designate, he should reject the deal outright since it poses a threat to democracy. According to Ruml political power has merely been divided between Klaus and Zeman, who will cover up any financial scandals and work closely together, making sure no other party has a chance to assert itself.

The smaller parties would have to significantly increase their presence in Parliament in order to oust this government.

Czech stocks fell in reaction to the agreement. Dealers said however on Thursday afternoon, that the crown which has been buoyed all year by high interest rates, was unmoved. Analysts said any major reaction was unlikely, and that markets would wait to see concrete policy proposals.

TU / Education

The Czech Trade Unions say that since the next government is likely to be named in the near future, it is time political leaders started thinking about the situation in the education sector.

The Unions have called a meeting for the 14th July to decided what their next steps will be. Chairman of the Trade Union, Richard Falbr, said on Thursday that the government's first task will be to sort out problems within education.

He pointed out that there are some 13 500 less employees in education this year compared to 1997, which means that the remaining teachers should have received a pay increase.

Falbr believes that the wage level in education is lower than in any other sector of industry.

And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather:

Friday will see a cloudy, overcast start to the day, which should improve towards the afternoon. Temperatures will range from 18 to 21 degrees celsius. dropping during the night to about 13 degrees celsius.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's the end of the news.