Press Review

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The winners and the losers of the 2002 parliamentary elections look out from all of today's front pages as commentators usher in what they call "Spidla's era". He was an inconspicuous man in an ill fitting suit - but he's clearly a fighter and a politician to be reckoned with, says Mlada fronta Dnes of the man who looks set to become the country's next prime minister.

The winners and the losers of the 2002 parliamentary elections look out from all of today's front pages as commentators usher in what they call "Spidla's era". He was an inconspicuous man in an ill fitting suit - but he's clearly a fighter and a politician to be reckoned with, says Mlada fronta Dnes of the man who looks set to become the country's next prime minister.

The paper reports on the outburst of joy at Social Democrat headquarters when news of the party's election victory broke. Deputy leader Petra Buzkova was dancing around the room barefoot and party members were clapping each other on the back and cheering. The only restrained figure on the scene was party leader Vladimir Spidla. As one commentator puts it "June 15th was an extraordinary day in the life of Vladimir Spidla. He finally cracked a smile".

On the other hand, the elections proved to be a nightmare for the leader of the Civic Democrats, the once supremely- confident Vaclav Klaus. Pravo notes that Mr. Klaus was a different man as he faced reporters after the party's election defeat. It seemed that Mr. Klaus had dropped all of his self confidence together with his ballot, writes Pravo. As he walked into Czech Television for a live debate with his party rivals, the leader of the Communists Miroslav Grebenicek is said to have jeered "I really appreciate how you assessed the outcome of these elections Mr. Klaus - a clear victory for the communists".

The communists' unexpected success in the elections has generated plenty of comment and many unanswered questions. Who is to blame? asks Lidove noviny. Many commentators believe that the power-sharing pact between the Social and Civic Democrats radicalized many otherwise moderate voters.

As for the failure of the parties right of centre, commentators believe that a lack of vision, a lack-luster campaign and animosity among them are all factors which contributed to their downfall.

The papers speculate about what the new government will bring. Among the stated priorities are the building of a welfare state and early admission to the EU. If you are childless and make over 26 thousand crowns a month - start working on a baby without delay, says Mlada fronta Dnes in reference to Mr. Spidla's declared pro-family policies and higher taxes for the well off and single.

Commentator Martin Komarek talks about Spidla's dilemma. In the coming weeks, Mr. Spidla is likely to be haunted by two voices, he says. One will be the voice of communist leader Miroslav Grebenicek, whispering "we are here for the poor, thrash the rich", the other will be the voice of Tony Blair saying "we are here for the poor, make them rich".

Lidove noviny warns Mr. Spidla not to let the Communists assist him in building his Scandinavia-style social state, on the grounds that the communists are hungry for power and will want their pound of flesh for any assistance offered. Mlada fronta Dnes also notes that encouraged by their unexpectedly strong standing in the elections, the Communists are radicalizing their rhetoric and their demands.

So is the swing to the left in the 2002 parliamentary elections a threat to democracy in the Czech Republic? Pravo notes that President Havel is not discouraged by the election results. A swing to the left -or to the right- is a normal part of democratic life, Mr. Havel told the daily. As for the strengthened position of the communist party, the President believes that many of the votes they have received are protest votes rather than votes in favour of the Communist ideology. Even so, the paper reports that Mr. Havel, a former dissident jailed by the totalitarian Communist regime, refused to meet them at Prague Castle.