Czechoslovakia's Civic Forum Seeks To Form Coalition

FREE ELECTIONS

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

ALTHOUGH Civic Forum won a surprisingly large victory in Czechoslovakia last weekend, a coalition of noncommunist parties is likely to lead the East European country through the difficult years ahead. A coalition would give the new government the broadest possible base and help to avoid charges that the Forum was forcing a new direction of the country on its citizens, analysts say.

``We realize that key problems are awaiting Czechoslovakia, and we feel that the new government must have a strong political majority,'' said Jan Urban, the head of Civic Forum, at a press conference Saturday night. Mr. Urban spoke after preliminary results were in from the country's first free elections in 44 years.

Civic Forum won around 50 percent of the votes, according to the first estimates after two days of voting, during which about 90 percent of the 11.3 million voters went to the polls. The Forum is a broad movement of former dissidents that was created by Vaclav Havel during last fall's revolution. Mr. Havel is now the president of Czechoslovakia.

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The large turnout is likely to give the Forum an absolute majority in both chambers of the 300-member federal parliament. At the same time, the Christian Democratic Union did worse than expected, capturing only around 12 percent and running evenly with the Communists. Two small nationalist parties from Slovakia and Moravia managed to get more than the required 5 percent of the vote to be represented in parliament.

But for the rest of the 22 political parties, the elections were a great disappointment. Neither the newer parties like the Greens, nor the historic parties like the Social Democrats or the Socialists, succeeded in being represented in the new parliament, whose main task during its two-year mandate will be to write and pass a new constitution leading up to elections in 1992.

For that constitution to be passed, Civic Forum feels it needs a broad coalition government, excluding both the Communists and the Slovak nationalists.

The Forum's coalition partner, therefore, is likely to be the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which consists of three political parties.

But a scandal involving one of the CDU's three parties, the People's Party, has created tensions between the two parties and could lead to difficulties in forming that coalition.

The scandal broke during the last days of the election campaign, after it was revealed that Josef Bartoncik, who is not only the chairman of the People's Party but also deputy speaker of the parliament, had been a secret police agent for 17 years.

Havel demanded his resignation, but so far Mr. Bartoncik has refused, even though, according to the Forum, he promised to resign in a conversation with Havel.

The scandal was the only thing slightly marring the elections, which were ``free and fair'' according to an international observer delegation led by, among others, Sens. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut and John McCain (R) of Arizona.

``We have been deeply moved by what we have seen,'' said the delegation in a statement. ``We saw no major irregularities or fraud, and the delegation witnessed an orderly, calm, and peaceful electoral environment.''

Another delegation from the European Parliament echoed the American report after inspecting dozens of polling stations around the country.

For millions of Czechoslovaks, the election was a very happy occasion. The vote was not only the end of more than 40 years of communist totalitarianism, but also a new beginning for Czechoslovakia and for the people themselves.

For Urban, the Forum leader and veteran dissident, a ``big part of my life'' ended with these elections.

``It is only today,'' he said, ``that I finally stopped being a dissident.'' -30-{et

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