Final Word from Wednesday, August 14, 2002

When we wrote two weeks ago that Vladimír Špidla was running a one-man show, one of our readers thought the premier was exhibiting signs of a dictator. The flooding this week has given Špidla a chance to reinforce his image as being very much in control. By declaring a state of emergency and instituting what he himself called a semi-military regime, General Špidla was showing that he knew how to act calmly and decisively under pressure. His performance has been remarkable and beyond reproach. But he isn't alone. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross of ČSSD and Prague Mayor Igor Němec of ODS have been impressive lieutenants. President Václav Havel, the real supreme army commander, was nowhere to be seen. (He'll return from vacation today.) Špidla, Gross and Němec have turned a catastrophe into a significant political bonanza.


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