Press Review

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Without exception the one item splashed across all of today's Czech dailies is the shocking first-round elimination of France from football's World Cup - Lidove noviny and Mlada fronta Dnes both feature photos of teary-eyed French supporters, faces streaked in their national colours. Meanwhile, Hospodarske noviny features a photo of a bowed Zinadine Zidane, the star mid-fielder who failed to make a mark; France makes their exit, the end of a golden era.

Without exception the one item splashed across all of today's Czech dailies is the shocking first-round elimination of France from football's World Cup - Lidove noviny and Mlada fronta Dnes both feature photos of teary-eyed French supporters, faces streaked in their national colours. Meanwhile, Hospodarske noviny features a photo of a bowed Zinadine Zidane, the star mid-fielder who failed to make a mark; France makes their exit, the end of a golden era.

The other main item making news of course, more important for the Czech Republic, are the upcoming general elections. With Czechs going to the ballot this Friday and Saturday Mlada fronta Dnes writes that the rhetoric is heating up. According to the paper, opposition Civic Democratic leader Vaclav Klaus has again turned to previously tried methods to try and sway undecided voters.

Four years ago Mr Klaus warned of a continuing socialist threat from the country's political Left and the slogan he has chosen this time reads "Stop Socialism - the nation votes for Klaus". But whether the last minute move will have an impact remains to be seen, since it was Mr Klaus's party after all that helped keep the minority Social Democrat government in power these last four years.

By contrast, Mlada fronta Dnes commentator Martin Komarek envisions a different election out-come: a grand-coalition government reconciling Klaus's party with the Left-of-Centre Social Democrats he has been so keen to criticise. Under such circumstances, Mr Komarek warns, the major beneficiary would be the Czech Republic's Communists, who would gain a sheen of respectability that has eluded them so far by becoming more prominent in opposition.

We continue with still more election predictions as Wednesday's Pravo reports that the opposition centrist Coalition, another parliamentary player that could help shape the face of the Czech Republic's new government, is preparing an offer for the Social Democrats. The paper writes that while no talks have got underway yet, in the end it could be these two players that could come to an agreement, leaving Mr Klaus's Civic Democrats out in the cold.

According to Pravo the Coalition, made up of the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union-DEU, has put together a proposal that would grant it junior status in a Social Democrat-led government. Ideally, the paper reports, they would like to nab several important posts, taking control of the Foreign Ministry, as well as Finance and Justice. Whether talks will actually follow, is still up in the air: clearly everyone will be wiser in the days, perhaps weeks to come, after the polls close on Saturday.

Moving away from election news now Hospodarske noviny reports that only a fourth of Czech municipalities make good investment choices with their finances - municipality debt in the country has been hovering at close to 40 billion crowns the last three years, that's about 1.3 billion US dollars. The paper writes that ten municipalities are so badly off the Finance Ministry refuses to even reveal their names. And with so many municipalities in trouble, banks are also much more careful now granting municipalities and towns financial loans.

Hospodarske noviny writes that municipalities and towns that are successful are those that try to increase the value of their holdings on the market by investing in bonds. Far worse off, the paper writes, are municipalities that only leave their savings untouched in timed accounts.

Finally, for this Wednesday we turn back to Lidove noviny and an interview with Czech Olympic skier Katerina Neumannova - is it likely that the coming season, the skier's thirteenth, will be her last? Neumannova was supposed to begin training three weeks ago but has been hampered by a leg injury. Although she says that at her age she would no longer go bananas over skiing, Neumannova adds the change in routine has left her feeling very antsy. Neumannova has had a very successful career, winning several Olympic medals.