News Monday, JUNE 01th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: June 1, 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.

Coalition - poll

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Sofres- Factum agency, 35 percent of Czechs are convinced that the best solution after the elections would be a coalition of the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Pensioners.

Another 30 percent of those polled favored a coalition of the Civic Democratic Party, the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats. According to the author of the opinion poll, no possible coalition would be supported by a majority of citizens.

Defence

Defence minister Michal Lobkowicz is preparing instructions for his successor. Minister Lobkowicz told reporters on Sunday that he would like his successor to continue reforming the defence sector and rebuilding the army so that it would be small in size but well trained and equipped with modern technology. He is convinced that more powers should be transferred from the defence ministry to the general staff. Lobkowicz also stressed the need to continue with fighting corruption among ministry officials.

In minister Lobkowicz's opinion, the Social Democrats are irresponsible in their approach to the defence sector. He pointed out that the likely winners of the early elections did not name any candidate for the post of defence minister, as they did for other posts in the cabinet.

Republicans/incident

Police are investigating an incident which happened at a public meeting of the far-right Republican party on Friday in the town of Karlovy Vary. According to the CTK news agency, republican leader Miroslav Sladek's assistant Lubomir Votava and another man beat Marian Jelinek, who was present at the meeting and asked Sladek awkward questions. Although the police were present at the meeting and allegedly witnessed the incident, they did not prevent the Republicans from dragging Jelinek away and beating him.

Govt/deregulation

The Czech cabinet believes that the announced deregulation of rents and energy prices, due to take effect on the first of July, will be the main factor influencing the consumer price index this year. The cabinet also expects higher prices to make people save electricity and gas and spend less on other items as well.

According to the ministry of finance, the deregulation will increase the inflation rate by about two percent. It is also expected to cause intense pressure on wage growth. On the other hand, it will change the structure of local demand and help fight the foreign trade gap because people are likely to opt for Czech products rather than imported goods.

SocDem/CNB

The Social Democrats have issued repeated denials that they were planning to limit the Czech National Bank's powers if they won the early elections. Social Democrat deputy leader Vladimir Spidla said in a televised debate on Sunday that his party only wanted to enhance dialogue between the Central Bank and the cabinet. He said the two bodies should discuss the setting of interest rates, inflation targets and economic growth.

The Social Democrats last Friday announced that they wanted to introduce the British model of governing the Central Bank, where the cabinet sets inflation targets and the bank works to reach them. Under current legislation, the Czech National Bank is fully independent of the executive branch. After sharp criticism from economic experts and right-wing politicians, the Social Democrats withdrew the plan, saying it was a misunderstanding.

Zeman about Ruml

Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman criticized Freedom Union chairman Jan Ruml for his warning that the Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party were going to form a grand coalition after the elections. Zeman rejected these allegations as groundless, saying Ruml should consult a psychiatrist.

Ruml recently said that the two strongest parties and former arch- rivals on the political scene, the Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party, were cooperating and planning a grand coalition after the elections. However, both these parties said this was utter nonsense.

Wagner about media

Media have contributed significantly to the negative pre-election atmosphere in the Czech Republic, according to participants in a televised debate on Sunday. According to unaffiliated MP Jozef Wagner, media are behaving as if they already know the results of the elections and are making it difficult for people to decide according to their own will. Wagner believes that media have much greater power than political parties.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting another cloudy day with scattered showers, with highest daytime temperatures between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius. On Tuesday and Wednesday it should be sunnier and warmer, with temperatures between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.