Press Review

The leading international story, of course, are the U.S. presidential elections. Who will move into the White House? asks MLADA FRONTA DNES, saying that the campaign is over, but Americans still have no clue as to who their next president will be. A front-page headline in today's LIDOVE NOVINY reads: "America votes for the most powerful man on the planet, Bush and Gore running neck and neck". And one more headline: "Bush a mere percentage point ahead of Gore" from today's HOSPODARSKE NOVINY.

Unlike the other national papers, PRAVO relegates the American presidential race to page seven, and leads instead on a domestic theme, which also happens to be electoral. With Senate by-elections less than one week away, a potentially damaging scandal has erupted in the Opava region in northern Moravia, the paper writes. Jan Jarab is the region's senatorial hopeful for a coalition of four right-wing opposition parties, but this fact has not been indicated on voting cards delivered to households. The coalition is furious and demands that the cards be printed afresh. Or else, its leaders fume, the elections in Opava should be postponed.

The Senate by-elections coincide with elections to new local and regional councils. But there are communities in the Czech Republic where people really don't see why they should go to the polls. One of them, MLADA FRONTA DNES reports, is Slezske Pavlovice near the Polish border, where 90 percent of villagers are on the dole after their cooperative farm fell apart in the early 90s, and no incentives were provided to would-be private farmers. The only luxury, the local mayor says, is a soup kitchen where old people can eat for really symbolic prices. And to them, the concept of regional administration is as alien and incomprehensible as something from Mars.

Ten days after his daring jailbreak from a maximum security prison, contract killer Jiri Kajinek was still at large this morning. He had been serving a life sentence and today's LIDOVE NOVINY follows a day in the life of an inmate sentenced to the maximum penalty that the Czech legal system metes out only in exceptional cases. In the Czech Republic, all prisoners sentenced to life behind bars are concentrated in the Mirov maximum security prison, a medieval fortress overlooking the town of Sumperk. Inmates are confined to solitary cells, two-by-five metres, which they only can leave handcuffed and under armed escort. Reveille is at seven a.m., lights-out at 11 p.m. The daily routine consists of breakfast, lunch and dinner, reading, watching TV and the odd exercise in the prison yard. Inmates doing life do not work. A psychiatrist is available, so is a teacher and a priest, the paper notes.

And staying with the subject of crime and punishment, PRAVO reports that former Czechoslovakia's last communist prosecutor-general, Jan Pjescak, is to go on trial on charges of aiding and abetting judicial murder. Alois Jerabek, caught during an abortive attempt to flee the country in the 1950s, should have been tried for desertion. But Pjescak, then serving as a district prosecutor, saw to it that the man was sentenced to death for committing high treason and spying--charges never proven, PRAVO points out.