Press Review

Les communistes sur l'esplanade de Letna, photo: CTK

All of the front pages of the Czech dailies today report on the earthquake in south-eastern Turkey, and some of them also focus on American president George Bush's declaration that the war in Iraq is over. While these are the main international stories, the domestic reports that dominate the Czech newspapers today look at the May Day commemorations and a dispute within the coalition government over a proposed law on rent regulation.

All of the front pages of the Czech dailies today report on the earthquake in south-eastern Turkey, and some of them also focus on American president George Bush's declaration that the war in Iraq is over. While these are the main international stories, the domestic reports that dominate the Czech newspapers today look at the May Day commemorations and a dispute within the coalition government over a proposed law on rent regulation.

Communist Party's May Day, photo: CTK
The May Day commemorations held all over the Czech Republic receive extensive coverage in all of the dailies. Pravo reports that there were around nine thousand people at the Communist Party's May Day celebrations on Prague's Letna plain, but that the number of participants again decreased this year. Speakers at the gathering were critical of the war in Iraq, and they also urged the audience to vote "no" in the upcoming referendum on European Union membership for the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile, a number of "mock" parades also took place throughout the country. In the northern Bohemian town of Svetla pod Jestedem, around 5,000 people gathered for a "mock" communist march, reports Mlada fronta Dnes. Ridiculing the times before 1989 when workers and students were forced to attend May Day parades, participants carried banners with slogans such as "Be at work at six" and "More fodder for the republic." But they ended the parade in a way that they could not have done before - by burning an effigy of Soviet leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

The Communist Party is also in the news today for supporting the Social Democrats on a proposal for a new law on rent regulation. Hospodarske noviny writes that the Social Democrats have been unable to come to an agreement on a proposal with their coalition partners, and that they have instead managed to push forward their own proposal with the help of the Communists. These two parties would like to see rents rise a maximum of only ten per cent annually, while the Social Democrats' coalition partners and the opposition Civic Democrats support a faster increase.

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel is one person who will definitely be getting some more money from parliament today. Lidove noviny reports that Mr Havel will receive around 800,000 crowns because Czech lawmakers have not yet adopted a law on pensions for former presidents. Like other senior public officials, Mr Havel can also claim a payoff if he does not receive any other payment from the state three months after leaving his post.

And Vaclav Havel is probably the last Czech president whose portrait was most widely hung in classrooms throughout the country. For the first time since the nineteenth century, the portrait of the head of state is now not hanging in all Czech classrooms. Some schools have decided that it is enough to have the president's picture hang only in the principal's office, and to replace it in classrooms with the coat of arms, another picture - or to simply leave the space empty.

And while the faces of Czech presidents may not be as visible these days, you do have a greater chance of seeing something else in Czech cities and towns: martens, hares, foxes and hedgehogs. Mlada fronta Dnes reports that more and more animals in the Czech Republic are moving from fields and forests to towns and cities. They often find better conditions there than in the countryside, for they are not hunted or maimed by tractors, and conditions are adequate enough for them to feed and produce offspring.