Press Review

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Today's front pages inevitably reflect the election fever in the Czech Republic. With just hours left before polling stations open, political parties are bending over backward to try to impress voters. The end of the election campaign is one big party, says Mlada fronta Dnes featuring snapshots of various outdoor rallies: the Coalition with a tame lion dressed up in a coalition T-shirt nuzzling senator Jan Ruml, the leading Social Democrat candidate Petra Buzkova hosting a mega party in Prague and the Civic Democratic Alliance in sports gear, riding their bikes through the city centre.

Today's front pages inevitably reflect the election fever in the Czech Republic. With just hours left before polling stations open, political parties are bending over backward to try to impress voters. The end of the election campaign is one big party, says Mlada fronta Dnes featuring snapshots of various outdoor rallies: the Coalition with a tame lion dressed up in a coalition T-shirt nuzzling senator Jan Ruml, the leading Social Democrat candidate Petra Buzkova hosting a mega party in Prague and the Civic Democratic Alliance in sports gear, riding their bikes through the city centre.

Boring, boring, boring, say commentators in all of today's papers. Voters are interested in concrete policy programmes, says Hospodarske noviny , but as usual the campaign has boiled down to vague slogans and scare- mongering regarding the disasters awaiting this country should a rival party win the elections. The Civic Democrats have been especially active in this respect, plastering the country with billboards warning against the dangers of socialism as represented by the Social Democrats, much as they did four years ago.

How stale, says Hospodarske noviny, and how ineffective, given the fact that the Civic Democrats supported the Social Democrats through four years in office. It may be news to Mr. Klaus but voters simply don't care what the Civic Democrats think of their rivals, the paper notes.

Lidove noviny writes that selling politicians is pretty much like selling cookies or soft drinks. The advertising strategy is similar - exaggeration is part of the game and the consumer is used to a certain amount of exaggeration. However unlike consumer goods, politicians don't come with a certificate of quality, they are not returnable and there is no manual to refer to. Also, the expiry date is four years so mistakes can be very expensive, the paper notes.

The Social Democrats, who have been generous with financial hand-outs to different regions prior to the elections, have gone a step further - Prime Minister Milos Zeman has allegedly slammed his youngest Cabinet minister Karel Brezina for spending too much money on travel expenses and cancelled his last minute trips abroad handing the six million crowns saved to Czech schools as a surprise gift to be used for whatever is most needed. Lidove noviny reports that Minister Brezina has thus missed seeing the football world championship games in Korea - and he will not be spending time in the US and Great Britain but a number of Czech teachers will instead be able to take much needed language and instruction courses abroad.

Pravo has tried to ferret out as much as possible about the ongoing behind-the scenes negotiations regarding possible coalition set-ups. For the first time the head of the Civic Democrats Vaclav Klaus has stated a clear preference for a right-of centre coalition grouping. Meanwhile, Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda has confirmed speculation regarding plans between the Coalition and the Social Democrats, going so far as to give the paper names of potential cabinet ministers for individual posts. The other party of the two member Coalition, the Freedom Union, has refused to confirm the information.

And finally, Mlada fronta Dnes has a full page report about the Prime Minister's last curtain call. Mr. Zeman chaired his last Cabinet in informal style, over roast pork, chilled beer and the sound of a band playing " This is goodbye". It was a goodbye for the whole Cabinet, says the paper, but while some ministers wish to remain active in politics Milos Zeman has clearly stated that he will now live the life of a pensioner, resting, reading and taking long walks in the woods near his country cottage.