News Thursday, APRIL 02th, 1998

Radio Prague E news Date: April 2nd, 1998 Written/read by: Alena Skodova

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm AS and we start with the headlines:

Those are the main points and now the news in more detail:

Havel - elections

The Czech republic will take the final step towards an early parliamentary election on Thursday when president Vaclav Havel signs a decree calling the poll, widely expected in mid-June. Havel last week signed a constitutional amendment which had already been approved by the parliament, halving the term of the current lower house to two years, ending on June 30th. He also said last week that the elections will most likely be held on June 19th and 20th, the choice of most mainstream parties. Most parties had agreed on calling an early election to resolve a political crisis following the fall of former premier Vaclav Klaus's centre-right coalition last November. The main opposition Social democrats, led by Milos Zeman, remain clear leaders in the opinion polls, which also suggest the election may result in deadlock with no currently envisaged coalition able to muster a majority.

Miners - government

Negotiations between representatives of coal-miners' trade unions and two members of the government - deputy premier Josef Lux and Trade and Industry minister Karel Kuhnl - have ended in Prague. A joint statement says that both sides agreed there was no reason to stop the privatization of brown coal mines in Northern Bohemia. Miners from this area went on strike alert last week, expressing fear that private owners might cut back on mining activities, thus enabling some allied foreign company to export electric energy to the Czech Republic. The government offered guarantees of employment to miners in exchange for ending their strike alert.

Meanwhile, Finance minister Ivan Pilip has admitted that the state might have lost control of the Most Mining Company when more than 50 percent of the shares were obtained by allied financial groups, which he did not specified, though. Pilip said his ministry would press charges against those involved in the financial transactions, who may include people from the company's management.

Sedivy - Brussels - NATO

Within the framework of the Czech Republic's accession talks with the European Union in Brussels, Czech Foreign minister Jaroslav Sedivy has given deputies of the Belgian parliament the reasons why our country wants to join NATO. Members of the Foreign and defence committees assured Mr.Sedivy that the Belgian parliament wouldn't put any stumbling blocks in the way of the admission protocols being ratified. Deputy Defence minister Jaromir Novotny informed experts from the Senatorial Defence committee that the Czech army has 65 thousand soldiers, 45 percent of whom are professionals. Full professionalization of the Czech army has not been demanded by any political party.

Czechs abroad - elections

The House of Deputies has turned down a Bill on parliamentary elections which was designed to enable Czech citizens who currently live and work abroad to take part in general elections. The rejection of the bill will have no impact on the upcoming early parliamentary elections in June. 84 deputies out of 167 present voted against the bill. Communist and republican deputies who instigated the turning down of the bill enjoyed support from the majority of their Social democrat colleagues. Czechs living abroad or those who are abroad for holidays will thus have no chance to cast their ballots.

Election preferences

A non-parliamentary party, Pensioners for Life Securities, could make it to to the future parliament and have 14 seats there, as it would receive over 5 percent of the vote. In contrast, the Civic democratic alliance is continuing to lose support and would not be represented in the House of Deputies. An opinion-poll conducted by the Sofres-Factum agency further showed that 25,8 percent of those questioned favour the Social democrats, 12,4 percent the recently established Freedom Union and 11 percent of respondents would vote for the Civic democratic party compared to a little more than 9 percent at the beginning of March.


And finally, the weather: It will be cloudy to overcast in the Czech republic today, with rain showers and thunder storms on the whole territory, and afternoon highs between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius.