Press Review

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After a fairly quiet weekend on the domestic scene, it is the Middle East crisis and the turbulent events in Venezuela which fill Monday's front pages. The papers carry details of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's attempt to broker a cease-fire after 18 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence. "Futile talks" and "Colin Powell fails to bring about a break- through" read the headlines in Pravo and Mlada fronta Dnes.

After a fairly quiet weekend on the domestic scene, it is the Middle East crisis and the turbulent events in Venezuela which fill Monday's front pages. The papers carry details of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's attempt to broker a cease-fire after 18 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence. "Futile talks" and "Colin Powell fails to bring about a break- through" read the headlines in Pravo and Mlada fronta Dnes.

Lidove noviny has devoted a full page to Palestinian suicide bombers, whose numbers have increased dramatically in recent weeks. It is no longer necessary to brainwash young Palestinians to carry out suicide bombings, they volunteer of their own accord, Lidove noviny says. And, increasingly those volunteers are women. According to an opinion poll conducted in the Gaza Strip the vast majority of Palestinians no longer support dialogue with Israel and 78 % of respondents approve of the suicide bombings, the paper says.

On the domestic scene, most of the weekend stories are linked to the June 15th general elections. The Social Democrat government has published a report assessing its four years in office which Lidove noviny says is nothing but a political manifesto. "We don't want to brag but we did just great" is how Lidove noviny sums up the 160 page document. It is a long list of success, says commentator Petr Fischer and when, occasionally, the authors face up to a problem, it is inevitably a problem created by former governments. That kind of document is no good to anyone but the Social Democrats, the paper concludes.

The election campaign is gathering pace and the main opposition Civic Democrats and the ruling Social Democrats who are running neck-to-neck, are doing their best to win more support. The Civic Democratic Party has been thrashing more political capital from the controversial Benes decrees. Only this time it has found enemies inside the Czech Republic as well. In a televised debate Civic Democratc Party candidate Martin Riman accused the daily Mlada fronta Dnes of backing Sudeten German demands and betraying the country's national interests.

Lidove noviny says that, given repeated assurances from the EU that the post-war Benes decrees are not an obstacle to Czech membership in the Union, it is high time to drop the subject. But this is too good an issue to pass up, the paper says. Our public needs to feel concern so politicians can come along and reassure them about their future.

Meanwhile, the Social Democrats have decided to give voters some breathing space away from politics. Pravo reports that over the weekend the party organized some down-to-earth fun and games. The weekend rally in Decin was targeted towards women - the Social Democrats offered a fashion show followed by a male strip-tease act. The party's most popular Cabinet member, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross was supposed to attend but he failed to arrive. He had a valid excuse, Pravo says, but rumor has it that the planned show may have been a bit too much for him.

Meanwhile, Mlada fronta Dnes reports on the appearance of a new political party, the Balbinova Poetic Party. It was established at the Balbin pub just around the corner from the Czech Radio building and was initially meant as a joke, something along the lines of "Svejk" author Jaroslav Hasek's party of "Cautious reform within the boundaries of the law".

However, as with the Danish MP who won a seat in Parliament by promising voters better weather, this party collected more than the needed one thousand signatures by promising Czechs "lots of humor and definitely no election programme". Nobody is taking the five member party seriously - but it is revealing of the present political environment" a political commentator told Mlada fronta Dnes.