Press Review

The late-night news that the opposition Four-Party Coalition is to re-group into a two party alliance for the upcoming general elections is splashed all over today's front pages. Lidove noviny notes that although both the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats have now expressed the will to retain their political partnership, the agreement is a fragile one that could easily collapse over technicalities.

It's obvious, says the paper, that the Christian Democrats, who are the stronger of the two parties, are not happy with the Freedom Union's suggestion for the vacancies on the joint candidates list, left by the withdrawal of the Civic Democratic Alliance, to be filled by independent candidates. Indeed, Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda told the daily he did not believe the Freedom Union could find suitable candidates who would be prepared "to fully identify with the policy of the two-party alliance".

The Christian Democrats would much prefer for the two parties to divide the vacancies between them, the paper says, adding that there is a good chance the independent candidates the Freedom Union wants to invite may well turn down the offer, since it is made out of necessity - at the eleventh hour.

Pravo notes that the opposition grouping has clearly failed in its attempt to provide a viable alternative to the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene - the ruling Social Democrats and the main opposition Civic Democrats - who currently have a power sharing deal. Their opposition alliance was never homogenous and it lacked a strong, charismatic leader. No matter how critical

one may be of Vaclav Klaus and Milos Zeman, as party leaders they both have what it takes to win over voters. Until the opposition alliance finds itself such a personality it will remain on the margin of Czech politics.

Away from politics, Mlada fronta Dnes has devoted a full page to corruption among traffic police. Everyone knows that this goes on - on a mass scale - but until recently nothing much was done about it, the paper says. Late last year an inspection team from the interior ministry brought charges against 30 officers - and there is no doubt at all that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The paper notes that although the action taken is positive - the bottom line is that until police officers are better paid and their profession acquires a higher social standing it will be difficult to eradicate the problem.

And finally, the lucky winner who hit the jackpot in this weekend's Sazka lottery is taking his time to collect his 66 million crowns. Pravo says the ticket was sold here in Prague and the winner has 5 weeks to collect his money. Meanwhile, financial advisors are falling over each other making recommendations on how the sum should best be invested. Sixty-six million is the biggest sum ever to go to a single winner - in the year 2000 two winners divided 108 million between them.