Press Review

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The two rivals for president - Vaclav Klaus and Jan Sokol - are featured on all of today's front pages - and, symbolically, flanking them in many photographs are two senior communist deputies, with broad smiles on their faces. "This presidential election is very much in the hands of the communists" says Lidove Noviny, "Signing a blood pact with the devil" echoes Mlada Fronta Dnes.

The two rivals for president - Vaclav Klaus and Jan Sokol - are featured on all of today's front pages - and, symbolically, flanking them in many photographs are two senior communist deputies, with broad smiles on their faces. "This presidential election is very much in the hands of the communists" says Lidove Noviny, "Signing a blood pact with the devil" echoes Mlada Fronta Dnes.

It is difficult to predict what the communists will do, Lidove Noviny says. Clearly Jan Sokol is not their favourite, having come across as too "moralist and right-wing" for the communists' taste. The dislike is clearly mutual. Sokol recently compared the communists to the ultra right Republican Party when speaking to journalists -the worst label he could have given them - and during one of their question and answer sessions in parliament he presented them with a textbook he wrote for university students called "Citizenship - rights and duties".

Vaclav Klaus is also right wing - but he is more predictable and he is also highly pragmatic, which would play in the communists favour. If they support anyone it will most likely be Vaclav Klaus, Lidove Noviny predicts - but they may decide to make sure the election ends in stalemate. Either way the outcome would destabilize the Social Democratic Party and with it the whole governing coalition. So it all depends on what suits the communists best at this given moment.

The only way to curb the communists' influence, says Mlada Fronta Dnes, would be for the governing coalition to vote as one man. 138 coalition deputies have so far pledged to support Sokol - that's three votes less than he needs. While most commentators argue in favour of discipline during Friday's vote, Hospodarske Noviny alone speaks out in favour of letting deputies vote according to their conscience - even if it means having no president at Prague Castle. This country needs deputies, not sheep, Hospodarske Noviny says.

It would seem that leaders are hard to find, says Lidove Noviny, noting that Czech Public Television is also living in anticipation of who will be its next general director. Although six contestants are in the running, it is unlikely that the TV and Radio Board will settle on any of them, the paper predicts. This does not reflect well either on the board or on the TV station - and in a bizarre twist - rumour has it that Ivo Mathe the man who stood at the head of Czech TV for many years and who was replaced in order to give Czech TV "a new and better post-revolution image" may consider a come back to restore some sort of order to the sorely tried public TV station.

Away from politics, the health authorities are taking steps to ensure that Rohypnol, a powerful sleeping drug that is widely abused by drug addicts, is made less easily available. According to Mlada Fronta Dnes its prescription by doctors should be under greater scrutiny and prescriptions should carry a blue line, making it more difficult to fake them. In addition to drug addicts, Rohypnol is popular among thieving prostitutes who use it to sent a client to sleep before emptying his packets and bank account.

And finally, Pravo reports that a young man who was snapping pictures on a mountain slope 1,600 meters above ground survived by some miracle after taking a step back into nothing and falling 500 meters down a steep incline. He was really lucky - says one of the emergency workers who arrived on the scene within minutes. A huge pile of snow from a recent avalanche broke his fall and the emergency team was within sight - just minutes away filming a documentary about a doctor and two emergency workers who died close by while trying to save the doctor's life.