Press Review

r_2100x1400_radio_praha.png

Although sparks are flying again over the controversial Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of over 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the war, it is the visiting US First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush who has stolen the show and whose smiling face graces the front pages of all Czech dailies today.

Although sparks are flying again over the controversial Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of over 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the war, it is the visiting US First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush who has stolen the show and whose smiling face graces the front pages of all Czech dailies today.

Mlada fronta Dnes notes that Mrs. Bush's weekend programme in Prague was kept under wraps for security reasons, but journalists dogged her footsteps everywhere. The paper features a snapshot clearly portraying the amazement of park-goers who had no idea the US First Lady was in the country and certainly did not expect her to simply walk past their park bench dressed in casual sports gear clutching a bottle of mineral water in her hand.

Although the US First Lady appears to have made an excellent impression on the Czechs, Lidove noviny notes that her husband's popularity has suffered a blow in the wake of recently publicized information that the White House had received warning of pending terrorist attacks well in advance of the September 11th tragedy. Failing to issue a public warning is an error of judgement that President Bush will find hard to justify and the warning of more attacks to come issued this weekend is clearly an attempt to remedy that mistake and take the wind out of the sails of his critics, says Lidove noviny.

On the domestic scene, pretty much everything is overshadowed by the June general elections. The papers analyze the weekend gathering of the Sudeten German Landsmanshaft and demands for the Czech Republic to revoke the post-war decrees which sanctioned the expulsion of over 2.5 million ethnic Germans, from various angles - but mainly as regards how the latest proclamations could affect party prospects in the upcoming elections.

There is general agreement that the right wing Civic Democrats and the Communists have the most to gain in this respect, while the Christian Democrats stand to lose the most for not being emphatic enough in defense of the decrees. Pravo notes that the Social Democrats have even used the occasion to present the Christian Democrats with an ultimatum - unless they commit to defend Czech national interests on the issue the Social Democrats would not consider them as a potential coalition partner.

The two member Coalition - made up of the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union - have accused their rivals of populist rhetoric and claims to have many indications that the Social and Civic Democrats are working out a grand coalition behind the scenes. In a two page interview for Lidove noviny the two coalition leaders - Cyril Svoboda and Hana Marvanova - claim that the two biggest parties on the Czech political scene - which "divided and reigned" over the past 4 years - are prepared to close another power-sharing pact for the future.

Although the papers all report on the Civic Democrats old-new election strategy - an attempt to mobilize the public against the danger of "a socialist government" as represented by the Social Democrats, commentators poke fun of the party's new slogans. "We have heard all this before," writes today's Mlada fronta Dnes. Four years ago they issued similar warnings under the slogan "To the Left or with Klaus", and then we all watched the very same Mr. Klaus clinch a deal with the so called "leftist" party which presented this grave danger.

Moreover, the paper adds, in the way they govern the country, both the Civic and Social Democrats are much closer to the "centre" than they'd care to admit at election time. In the Czech Republic, as in most other European states, it would be difficult to govern otherwise, Mlada fronta Dnes concludes.