News Monday, MARCH 02th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: March 2, 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.

Zeman/elections/threshold

Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman said in a televised debate on Sunday he wanted to initiate changes in the Constitution to make it easier to form majority governments after parliamentary elections.

Zeman suggests that either the five-percent threshold necessary for entering the parliament be increased or that the election system be changed from proportional to first-past- the-post. Both options would prevent smaller political parties from entering parliament.

Zeman said the early elections were likely to end in a stalemate and a minority cabinet would have to be formed which would not solve the current political instability.

Zeman's opponent in the debate, Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml, agreed with Zeman that there is a danger of a stalemate after the elections. However, he said his party would under certain circumstances support a minority cabinet but with a limited mandate. In Ruml's opinion, it would then be necessary to change the election system.

According to current opinion polls, the Social Democrats would win the elections and together with the Christian Democrats could form a cabinet with a narrow majority in the chamber of deputies.

Rightists vs. Lux

Right-wing politicians on Sunday sharply criticized a Christian Democrat proposal to nationalize recently privatised companies in order to privatise them again, in a different way.

Civic Democratic Party officials, Miroslav Macek and Marek Benda, said this was an example of socialist thinking. In Marek Benda's opinion, it would be unfortunate to look for privatisation methods other than public tenders and Mr. Macek said this confirmed his suspicion that the Christian Democrat Union is virtually a left-wing party.

Leader of the Freedom Union, Jan Ruml, is in accord with his former party-mates and sees the Christian Democrat plan as a step back towards socialism. Ruml said he hoped the media misinterpreted what the Christian Democrats said and added that if it WAS true, he could not imagine forming a coalition with them.

The Christian Democrats said on Saturday the state should bear responsibility for wrong privatisation decisions and should in some cases nationalize property again and privatise it in a better way.

However, after these reactions, Cyril Svoboda who announced this plan at a Christian Democrat conference called Order and Justice, denied his party had ever wanted to nationalize private property.

On the other hand, Social Democrat MP Pavel Dostal welcommed the intent, because his party was considering doing the same.

Govt/EU accession

The Czech government will start preparing documents for EU accession talks and appoint a team which will lead the talks. The negotiations are to start on the 31st of March and should concern economic, fiscal, monetary, agricultural, regional and foreign policies of the Czech Republic. At an extraordinary session on Monday, the cabinet will start discussing 24 documents which contain the Czech Republic's stance toward joining the EU.

Most of the position documents have been prepared by the ministry of finance and the ministry of industry and trade.

The European Union has invited the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus for closer accession negotiations. However, it is not clear when the talks will be concluded and when any of the countries will become a full member.

Czech weather report

And finally, a quick look at the weather. On Monday, weather in Central Europe will be under the influence of a warm front from the West. It should be mostly cloudy with occasional snow showers, afternoon highs should range from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for Tuesday and Wednesday: it should much the same as on Monday, cloudy or partially cloudy with showers, with temperatures around ten degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.