Press review

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The face of the Czech Formula 1 driver Tomas Enge - a new teenage idol in the Czech Republic - looks out from most of today's front pages. "Enge stripped of title because of marihuana" read the headlines. In an interview for Lidove Noviny Enge maintains that he has no idea how traces of marihuana got into his system and says the verdict which allows him to carry on racing is a huge relief.

The face of the Czech Formula 1 driver Tomas Enge - a new teenage idol in the Czech Republic - looks out from most of today's front pages. "Enge stripped of title because of marihuana" read the headlines. In an interview for Lidove Noviny Enge maintains that he has no idea how traces of marihuana got into his system and says the verdict which allows him to carry on racing is a huge relief.

The question who will replace President Vaclav Havel at Prague Castle is now a widely debated issue. "The Presidential campaign is off and running" says Mlada Fronta Dnes, noting that although the President will not be elected in a direct vote, the public is being treated to the first real election campaign in the country's modern history.

Six candidates, including former prime ministers Milos Zeman and Vaclav Klaus, stand a serious chance of getting elected and with president Havel out of the picture the chances are fairly even. As Pravo puts it, for the first time in the past decade we really have no idea who will be our next head of state, and the matter is in the hands of party leaders. The outcome of the Senate elections in November will tell us more, the paper says. The division of power in the upper house will decide a number of important questions, including who will be the country's new president.

Lidove Noviny has published a frank appraisal of the candidates' chances, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and gauging what their performance in office will be like. Both Klaus and Zeman are described as strong-willed, outspoken politicians who would be active foreign policy wise - but who would provide the Czech Republic with a fair number of gaffes in the process. They are also expected to be conflict-prone with respect to internal matters.

On the other hand, the former justice minister Jaroslav Bures, the current Ombudsman Otakar Motejl and the former prime minister Petr Pithart are seen as "moderate and conciliatory" politicians who would strive for political consensus and compromise and use their presidential powers as "mediator" rather than "centre stage actor". Pithart is described as "the man who talked Fidel Castro into releasing two Czech politicians from a Cuban jail".

The H-system scam in which hundreds of people lost their savings is also a big story. The case, in which a construction company mismanaged a billion crowns collected from future homeowners, is now in court. The court is currently working to ascertain the role of former finance minister Ivan Kocarnik, who approved decisions crucial to the deal. It has now come to light - says Mlada Fronta Dnes - that the former minister's current wife was also "on the waiting list" for a luxury home and it is not clear whether she was asked for a down payment of several million crowns.

Hospodarske Noviny writes that as the date of the upcoming November NATO summit in Prague approaches people living in the vicinity of the congress centre have began insuring their property against vandalism. Insurance companies say the main wave of interest is yet to come and they are expecting to do big business in October. Although many small businesses are not insured all year round due to the high costs, they realize the benefits of short-term insurance; and the street violence that accompanied the IMF and World Bank session in 2000 taught them it is better to be safe than sorry, the paper says.