Press Review

Yes, and it's one of those days when editors-in-chief must have wished for an extra-large format paper. A great many interesting stories jostle for space on today's front pages: the floods in Europe that have claimed 16 lives to date, the US presidential elections, the outcome of the operation to divide the Siamese twins Jody and Mary, news of the aborted theft of a diamond worth 350 million pounds, a coup for the British police, and snapshots of a car accident from which Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus emerged unscathed.

The Czech prime minister has given reporters a field day by suggesting that voting in elections should be made compulsory. Zeman told journalists that Czech voters needed incentive to go to the polls, and that any fines collected would be a welcome addition to state coffers. There is no doubt as to what people think of that idea. Compulsory elections? What nonsense!, writes Pravo. The outcome of a mini-opinion poll the paper conducted among Czechs also pours scorn on the idea, with one respondent slamming the prime minister for wanting to re-introduce "bolshevik practices". The paper features a cartoon in that spirit, in which an elderly Czech says to his wife, "Well, Molly it's to be compulsory elections again--dressed in your best and a smile on your face."

Although the European Commission's progress report on the Czech Republic is not yet officially out, there is already a great deal of speculation about what's in it. Lidove Noviny, citing Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan as its source, claims that the Czech Republic can expect an overall positive report this year. Hospodarske Noviny, on the other hand, says Brussels is critical of the slow reform of the judiciary system and the failure of Operation Clean Hands, a much-publicized but unsuccessful government attempt to crack down on corruption.

Ceské Slovo reports on the continuing blockade of three Czech-Austrian border crossings by Austrian anti-nuclear activists. Drivers now know which crossings to avoid, and the anti-nuclear protesters are gradually loosing their audience, the paper says. It likewise claims that an increasing number of Austrians are coming to realize that the blockades were not a good idea. For them to have had any effect, they should have taken place 10 years ago, one Austrian told the paper.

Reacting to speculation that escaped convict Jiri Kajinek was innocent of crimes for which he received a life sentence and had in fact been framed, acting Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky told reporters that he would investigate the matter and speak with the judge who had passed sentence on him. Zemske Noviny says that if the acting justice minister is in any doubt, he can ask the Supreme Court to re-open the case.

And finally Mlada Fronta Dnes comments on the ongoing dispute regarding patients' rights in the Czech Republic. The Medical Chamber has suggested that patients who are willing to pay for above-standard services should have the option of getting home treatment in the evenings or during weekends, instead of spending hours queuing up for their turn at GPs' offices during working hours. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla is dead set against the idea, arguing that all Czechs deserve to get the same quality care, based on the "principle of solidarity". Commentator Jana Bendova says that if the majority of the population is assured good quality, "standard" health care, there is really no reason why those who can afford it should not get above-standard health care. Some people like to spend their extra money on holidays, others on beer--if someone wants to use it to take good care of their health, why not let them? Bendova concludes.