News Saturday, JANUARY 17th, 1998

Miroslav Sladek, the leader of the far-right Republican party, is to run for the presidency in next week's election. The decision makes Sladek the third candidate, alongside communist astrophysicist Stanislav Fischer and the incumbant, Vaclav Havel, who is expected to win easily. Sladek also ran against Havel the last time presidential elections were held in 1993, but gained just 14 votes compared to 109 for Havel. Sladek is unlikely to be present at the vote, since he is at present in custody awaiting trial on charges of inciting racial hatred. It was also announced on Friday that the Prague Municipal Court had rejected his appeal to be released. Sladek responded by appealing to the Constitutional Court.

Deputy prime minister Jiri Skalicky has said the interim government will not get through its vote of confidence later this month. Skalicky's remarks, made at a press conference of his Civic Democratic Alliance, came after comments by former prime minister Vaclav Klaus in today's Mlada fronta Dnes newspaper. Klaus said that his Civic Democratic Party would not support the government, and Skalicky responded that Klaus had agreed with the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Milos Zeman, to prevent the government winning the confidence vote. Later on, Zeman said his party would only support the government if it agreed not to carry out radical right-wing policies such as further deregulation or privatisation. Nevertheless, President Havel said after meeting Zeman at Prague Castle that the government should receive the confidence of Parliament, and that he would make a speech before the confidence vote to try and pursuade MPs to support it.

The latest opinion polls give Zeman's Social Democrats a growing lead over Klaus's Civic Democrats, or ODS. The latest figures from the IVVM agency show 29 percent would vote for the Social Democrats, while ODS support is down to 15 percent. Furthermore, an opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency showed Zeman's party on 32 percent, ahead of the ODS on 15 and a half.

Following the resignation of Bohdan Dvorak on Thursday, the ODS has announced it is paying an American firm to carry out an extensive audit. Dvorak had been responsible for dealing with accusations the party benefited from secret slush funds, which led to the downfall of the Klaus cabinet in November and has contributed to declining support. Now the party is to pay Deloitte and Touche to look into its book-keeping between 1994 and '97. ODS leader Vaclav Klaus said the audit would cost four million crowns, but would be worth it. ODS deputy chairman Miroslav Macek said the party did not have the money to pay for the audit, but would be able to get credit.

And away from politics, the secret of artistic immortality has been betrayed by Oscar-winning film director Milos Forman. Speaking at a ceremony marking his honorary doctorate from the Prague Music Academy, Forman said the thing was to say the truth but without being boring. "Anyone who keeps to this rule has success guaranteed," he said, adding that provided one lived in a free society, it was also possible to make money by saying the truth. On the other hand, the director of such acclaimed movies as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus also admitted that the viewer could be entertained by complete drivel. "The magic of interesting nonsense never fails," he declared.