News Monday, JANUARY 26th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: January 26, 1998 Written/read by: Vladimir Tax

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Klaus: no cooperation on the right-wing

In a televised debate on Sunday, chairman of the strongest right wing party, the ODS, Vaclav Klaus, ruled out any possibility of cooperation among right-wing parties before the early elections which are to take place in June. He admitted though that it would be natural if they formed a coalition after the elections. However, he said this would depend on the way they lead their pre- election campaigns.

The ODS is still at odds with its two former coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Civic Democratic Alliance both of which initiated the fall of the former government. Klaus's party also feels negative towards the Freedom Union which was founded by members of a rebel faction which left the party recently.

SocDem leadership recommends its MPs to back Tosovsky govt

The Czech Social Democratic Party Central Executive Committee recommended its MPs to support the cabinet of Premier Josef Tosovsky, party officials told CTK after the committee meeting.

Although the Central Committee did not call on the deputies to support the cabinet unanimously, party deputy chairman Zdenek Skromach said he expected them to do so.

However, party leader Milos Zeman said if his party is to support the government, the Social Democrats want the cabinet to pledge that within six weeks it would submit to parliament a timetable of privatisation steps it wants to take before the end of June and further details on price deregulations.

According to Zeman, Josef Tosovsky cabinet's approach towards these demands could influence the opinion of some Social Democrat deputies during the parliamentary vote of confidence in the cabinet.

Zeman told reporters that if their demands were not met before the parliamentary vote, it cannot be ruled out that some of Social Democrat deputies, who are still hesitating, would perceive it as the government's unwillingness to provide more detailed information, and they would act accordingly.

Rivals Klaus & Zeman in unison condemn the Freedom Union

Leaders of the Civic Democratic Party and the Social Democrats, Vaclav Klaus and Milos Zeman respectively, view the newly- established Freedom Union as untrustworthy. Milos Zeman said in a televised debate with his main political opponent, Vaclav Klaus, that every political subject must have certain credibility but that the Freedom Union lacked it, because it was established by former ODS members who left the party to avoid responsibility. He mentioned especially finance minister Ivan Pilip who has already changed party affiliation twice.

CR lagging behind EU criteria

The Czech Republic meets only two out of five Maastricht criteria set by the EU for integration into the economic and monetary union. The criteria the Czech Republic meets are both fiscal: the annual state budget deficit lower than three percent of the GDP and the country's overall debt lower than 60 percent of the GDP.

The Czech Republic, as well as other new free-market economies of Central and Eastern Europe that have been invited to accession talks with the EU, does not have to meet all the convergation criteria when joining the Union. However, after acquiring full membership, they must observe them on a permanent basis.

Havel: spirit of the constitution must prevail

President Havel does not intend to complicate the early elections, however, he wants to observe the spirit of the Constitution, he said in his regular Sunday talk on Czech Radio. He said he did not want to blackmail or threaten anyone by saying that if premier Tosovsky's cabinet does not receive support in the parliament, the early elections will be postponed.

Havel has been sharply criticized for this warning by representatives of both the Civic Democratic Party and the Social Democrats who want the elections to take place in June but hesitated to support the provisional cabinet. They accused Havel of misusing his official powers and trying to force them to vote in favour of the government of Josef Tosovsky.

The president repeated that under the Constitution, if a government does not pass a vote of confidence, he must appoint a new prime minister who will then try to form a cabinet. If this cabinet fails, the president has one more attempt to choose a premier and only if he fails as well, the president can dissolve the Chamber of Deputies and call early elections. Havel said that in his opinion, this should be understandable even for slow-witted people.

He said the principle cannot be interpreted as supposing the president to deliberately offer governments which have no chance of winning parliament's confidence only in order to bring about fresh elections. This would amount to turning the spirit of the constitution upside down and showing to the young generation that the politicians are all playing clowns in an absurd comedy, Havel said.

Tennis - Korda sinks Pioline to reach quarter-final

Czech Petr Korda booked the initial quarterfinal place at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Korda, seeded sixth, remained undefeated after dispatching Frenchman Cedric Pioline 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 under the closed roof of Centre Court at the National Tennis Centre. Korda, who turned 30 two days ago and said his tennis has never felt better, scored the 50th victory of his Grand Slam career against 33 defeats.

Korda is likely to face a quarter-final battle against top seed Pete Sampras, to whom he lost in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. On Monday, central Europe will be under the influence of a high pressure area. It should be mostly clear, afternoon highs should range from 5 to 1 degrees Celsius bellow zero.

And that's the end of the news.