News Wednesday, JANUARY 14th, 1998

Radio Prague E-News Date: January 14, 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.

MPs leave ODS parliamentary club

MPs - supporters of a rebel faction in the Civic Democratic Party - have established a new parliamentary club. Defence Minister Michal Lobkowicz, a member of the anti-Klaus faction, told Reuters that 30 of the 69 members left the Civic Democratic Party parliamentary club on Tuesday.

One of the faction founders, Jan Ruml, said that leaving the party's parliamentary club does not automatically mean leaving the party itself.

ODS chairman Vaclav Klaus welcomed the move, saying it would clarify the situation. He pointed out that he does not consider those who left the party enemies but rather political competitors. Klaus also said it would be logical if representatives of the new political party were invited to political talks on the timing of early elections. He ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition with the party before the elections. However, he admitted that after them, the two parties could cooperate.

Volak resigns from ODS, Freedom Union to be established

The Czech Minister of Social Affairs Stanislav Volak on Tuesday resigned from the Civic Democratic Party. Minister Volak is a member of the group of politicians - former ODS members - who are planning to establish a new political party called "Freedom Union".

According to another member of the rebel faction, Michal Slachta, the party's programme will be similar to those of the Civic Democratic Party and the Civic Democratic Alliance, but its political style should be different.

ODA/Freedom Union

The Civic Democratic Alliance would prefer some form of cooperation with the Freedom Union -- expected to be established within a few days -- rather than merging with it, ODA deputy chairman Miroslav Toser told reporters on Tuesday. However, he admitted that the parties might merge, if it looked like it was necessary for them to succeed in the early parliamentary elections scheduled for June.

Other New Parties

Besides the Freedom Union, there are two other political parties being established in the next few days. The Political club established by a former member of the Social Democratic Party, MP Jozef Wagner, has announced that it has transformed itself into a political party called the Democratic Center Party. It intends to be an alternative to the failed policies of right-wing parties as well as to left-wing Social Democrats who, in Wagner's opinion, do not offer a solution to the current situation either.

Another party to emerge on the Czech political scene will be a conservative party founded by members of the Right Faction which left the Civic Democratic Alliance at the end of last year. The party promises a return to traditional values.

According to the CTK news agency, this conservative party will probably merge with the Freedom Union.

Havel/dissolution of LH

President Havel promised on Tuesday that if he is again elected head of state, he will dissolve the lower house of the parliament and call early elections, provided the conditions for it stipulated by the constitution are fulfilled.

Havel said there were several ways that early elections could be called, but in his opinion, there was something wrong with each of them.

On Monday, the cabinet decided to present a bill to the parliament connected with a vote of confidence. If the lower house fails to pass the bill within 90 days, the president is entitled to, but not obliged to, dissolve the parliament.

However, the president opines, the cabinet should submit bills to parliament and hope they are passed and not wish the opposite.

Presidential elections/candidates

Apart from the current Czech president Vaclav Havel, and a communist candidate, astronomer Stanislav Fischer, far-right Republican leader Miroslav Sladek will run for the office.

President Havel, who enjoys support from the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats, the Civic Democratic Alliance and part of the Civic Democratic Party, said on Tuesday he would welcome stronger opponents than an almost-unknown astronomer and the Republican leader, who is currently in custody and facing charges of spreading racial and national hatred.

Czech Rep./rating/down

The rating agency Dun & Bradstreet has lowered the Czech Republic's investment rating by one degree to DB3b. The agency said the main reason was political instability in the country. The Czech Republic's rating thus fell one point bellow the level of Slovenia and is the same as Poland's.

Czech author Libuse Monikova dies in Berlin

Czech writer Libuse Monikova died on Monday in Berlin, aged 52, it was announced on Tuesday.

Monikova, who lived in exile in Germany wrote mainly in the language of her adopted country.

Monikova earned international recognition in 1987 with her third novel Die Fassade, a humorous account of four Prague artists whose trip to Japan ends prematurely in Siberia.

Apart from winning numerous literary prizes in her host country, last October she was awarded the prestigious Masaryk Medal by Czech President Vaclav Havel in Prague.

Plane crashes near Czech airport

A 20-seat plane crashed while landing near the Czech town of Brno in thick fog late on Tuesday, police reported on Wednesday.

Parts of the plane were found near Brno airport and two bodies have been recovered, airport officials told the CTK news agency.

It was not immediately clear how many people were on board of the Czech-built turbo-prop aircraft. Fire brigade officials said the plane was carrying three crew and 20 passengers, but airport authorities said no passengers were on board.

The plane was on a flight from Russia to Brno but was forced to make a stopover at Gomel in Belarus because of technical problems.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting another grey day, with fog. Afternoon highs should range from 1 to 5 degrees Celsius. Thursday and Friday should be warmer but mostly cloudy with scattered showers, with temperatures between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.