News Sunday, JUNE 20th, 1999
Radio Prague Enews Written/read by: David Vaughan
Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I'm David Vaughan. First the Czech headlines.
And now the news in more detail.
Polling booths opened on Saturday morning to elect local councils in nineteen towns and villages around the Czech Republic, as well as in one district in Prague. The elections are being held in places where local councils failed to put together functioning coalitions after elections last autumn, or where political disputes have led to the resignation of local councillors. The most hotly contested poll is being held in the South Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice, where prominent figures from all the main political parties have taken part in the campaign. All the results should be known by the end of the weekend.
Czech police in Kosovo
The deputy interior minister, Jaroslav Kopriva has said that Czech police will take part in an international police force planned to help keep order in Kosovo. He told the paper Pravo that the final form of the Czech contribution would be decided next week after consultation with the foreign ministry. Czech police have confirmed that they have been asked to select suitable candidates for the special force.
Klaus on constitutional change
The former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, has said that his right-of-centre Civic Democrats and the ruling Social Democrats will keep their promise to change the Czech electoral system. Last July the two parties agreed that within a year they would put forward a joint proposal to introduce electoral reforms that would weaken the role of smaller parties in parliament. This followed the political deadlock created by last year's general election. Mr Klaus acknowledged that differences remain between the two parties, as his Civic Democrats favour more radical reform towards a first-past-the-post system, but he said that a concrete proposal will be hammered out by early July. Current opinion polls suggest that his party would be the main beneficiary of more radical change.
Opposition agreement likely to stay
At a meeting of the Civic Democratic Party leadership, Mr Klaus has said that his party bears no share of the responsibility for the performance of the Social Democrat government over the past twelve months, although the minority government has only remained in power thanks to an agreement with the Civic Democrats. Mr Klaus said that he had no intention of broadening the agreement, but indicated that his party would continue to tolerate the government into its second year. Mr Klaus's deputy Ivan Langer had a similar message, saying that a deal to sweep the Social Democrats from power, by forming a coalition government with the two smaller right-of-centre parties in parliament was highly unlikely in the near future.
Hundreds of believers attended a special mass at Prague's Saint Vitus' Cathedral on Saturday morning to commemorate the life of the Czech Cardinal Josef Beran, who last led mass at the cathedral exactly fifty years ago. Cardinal Beran was imprisoned by the communist regime and later forced into exile, where he died in 1969. In the Catholic Church today he is seen as an important symbol of resistance and self-sacrifice. Prague bishop, Jaroslav Skarvada, who was a personal friend of the Cardinal, told the congregation that it was only thanks to his tireless activity that the communist regime had failed to break the links between the Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia and the Vatican during the years of Stalinist rule in the 1950s. The church has already begun the gradual process of beatifying Cardinal Beran, in recognition of his work.
Havel addresses students
President Vaclav Havel has launched an international students' conference at Prague Castle with a speech on the role of education as a way of breaking down international barriers. He said that education gives people an insight into the links between events that on the surface seem unconnected. Around sixty students from around the world are taking part in the conference, which is focusing on the broad theme of globalisation.
Heavy rains led to flood warnings on a number of rivers in the east of the Czech Republic on Friday, but in the course of Saturday levels were reported to be falling on all rivers in the area. In villages near the town of Frydek Mistek the fire brigade is working to pump water from garages and cellars, and elsewhere holiday chalets were also reported to have been flooded. But for the time being forecasters predict no further danger.
And staying with the subject, here's a quick look at the weather for Sunday. It will be generally overcast throughout the Czech Republic with temperatures between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius. We can also expect the occasional thunderstorm, but a repetition of torrential rain seen on Friday is unlikely.
And that's all from the newsroom.