Final Word from Friday, May 31, 2002

The Senate is to decide today whether to support the purchase of Gripen fighters from BAE/Saab. The Miloš Zeman cabinet has delayed the signing of the final contract until after the next cabinet takes office, as a way to appease Senators who might want to vote No. ČSSD doesn't seem to fear that an ODS cabinet would kill the deal, and this gives strength to KDU-ČSL Chairman Cyril Svoboda's claim that ČSSD and ODS are much closer on the issue than they pretend to be. President Václav Havel remains the biggest question mark. It's rumored that he'll sign the financing bill if both houses pass it, but what if the Senate rejects it today and the lower house has to vote again a day before the elections? If it passes then, Havel could use his veto as a negotiating tool during talks on the formation of the next cabinet. To get Gripens, ČSSD might have to give up ODS.


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