News Wednesday, FEBRUARY 25th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: February 25, 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.

Deregulation

Czech cabinet ministers at their Tuesday's session approved deregulations of energy prices and rents by about thirty percent as of the first of July, cabinet spokesman Vladimir Mlynar told journalists.

Finance minister Ivan Pilip said all the price regulations should be fully lifted within two or three years, however, in his opinion, the final decision should be made by the next government, appointed by an early elections which are to take place in June.

The minister said the deregulations should not lead to an increase in the energy-producer's profits which still has a monopoly, but should level out the difference between the production costs and the price consumers pay.

Christian Democrats refrain from cooperation with SocDem

Christian Democrat leader Josef Lux said in an interview on Wednesday that his party will not take part in a government formed by the Social Democrats.

Lux said he could not imagine his party's presence in a cabinet together with people who say that the former government ruined the country, and who want to nationalize private property. He said the Christian Democrats would prefere cooperation with a credible liberal party.

Bratinka leaves sinking ODA

Founder of the Civic Democratic Alliance, Pavel Bratinka, on Tuesday left the party. The number of ODA MP's thus fell to 7. Bratinka said he lost all hope that the party can survive now when its policies were determined by a small group of people around the deputy-leader Miroslav Toser whose policies are different from the ODA's original programme. However, Bratinka rejected any connection between his decision to leave and the party's financial scandals. He said he wants to stay in politics and contribute to rehabilitation of right-wing ideas.

ODA goes down

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Factum agency, the Civic Democratic Alliance would not reach the five- percent threshold for entering the parliament, as its popularity fell to 4.9 percent in February. Representatives of the agency pointed out that the survey was conducted even before the party's financial scandal broke out in full.

The poll showed that if the elections took place in February, the Social Democrats would win with just under 29 percent of the vote, the Civic Democratic Party and the newly-established Freedom Union would gain about 10.5 percent.

ODA received large donation from bankrupt British businessman

The Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), currently disintegrating and facing possible extinction in early elections due to a funding scandal, allegedly received at least 120,000 British pounds in 1997 from a British businessman who has now gone bankrupt. The ODA received the gift from 'Michael Roy', a pseudonym for British businessman Ramesh Mistry. The company where he worked as financial director, Properties of Mayfair, found itself in such serious financial trouble that it was unable even to pay rent on its offices and went into liquidation last September.

Two thirds of Czechs for NATO

According to the latest opinion poll, two thirds of Czech citizens favour Czech NATO membership. The latest survey conducted by the Center for Empirical Research showed that most NATO supporters are young and educated people, while those older than sixty, less educated and voters of the Communist and Republican parties oppose the Czech Republic's accession to NATO.

Fifty years of communism

Fifty years ago, the communists took over power in Czechoslovakia, starting forty years of a totalitarian regime. To commemorate this event, 800 former political prisoners gathered at the Prague Castle upon an invitation from president Vaclav Havel, himself a prisoner of conscience. President Havel said people should remember the events from February 1948 and realize the value of democracy.

300 thousand drug-addicts

According to the head of the Interministerial anti-drug commission, Pavel Bem, there are at least three hundred thousand drug-addicts in the Czech Republic, most of them being alcoholics. He said this on Tuesday at a press conference devoted to the government anti-drug programme and policy, approved by the cabinet on Monday.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. On Wednesday, weather in the Czech Republic will be influenced by a warm front. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered showers, afternoon highs should range from 6 to 10 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for Thursday and Friday: it should be much the same as on Wednesday, mostly cloudy with showers, with temperatures just under 10 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.