Reforms Gain Momentum

A new government is to be formed by Sunday, free elections are promised within 12 months. CZECHOSLOVAKIA'S DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION

WITH each passing day, the new political situation in Czechoslovakia seems more irreversible. Wednesday, a senior Czechoslovak Communist Party official promised there will be free elections in the country, possibly within 12 months. Politburo member Vasil Mohorita told a news conference: ``Free and democratic elections ... will be held on a date which will be declared by the Federal Assembly.''

On Tuesday, it was announced that a new government would be formed by Sunday, and that important constitutional changes proposed by the opposition group Civic Forum would be realized.

Both announcements marked decisive steps toward a new and democratic Czechoslovakia.

Tuesday's announcement, made by the government spokesman without comment, came after a two hour meeting between Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec and a delegation from Civic Forum, led by playwright Vaclav Havel.

Among the demands the government agreed to at the meeting was to initiate the constitutional changes required to abolish the leading role of the Communist Party in governing the country and Marxism-Leninism as the basis of the educational system.

All indications are that the talks were almost a total success for Civic Forum, although the spokesman of the opposition group, Vaclav Maly, said that it would still be ``premature'' to celebrate.

Mr. Havel described the talks at a later press conference as ``difficult, very speedy, and, indeed, dramatic at times.''

``After 20 years of timelessness we now have this fantastic speed,'' he said.

Indeed, the development here continues at a very rapid pace, with political meetings and negotiations going on at the same time.

The students have decided to continue their strike until Sunday, because all of their demands have not been met. They continue to call for the punishment of those responsible for the police violence against their comrades on Nov. 17. Actors and visual artists are also still on strike.

But at the same time, a distinct change in atmosphere became noticeable on Tuesday, the day after the general strike. The feverish activity all over Prague has subsided somewhat, although the all-night vigil on Wenceslas Square continued, and posters, slogans, and resolutions still filled walls, shop windows, and subway stations all over the city.

The Communist Party also continued its almost constant round of meetings to try to recapture lost ground. But, as the leading economist Valtr Komarek said at a recent opposition rally, ``The Communist Party would be politically naive to think that compromises now are possible. Compromises cannot be made at this time in our history, because it would slow down the development and make us lose time.''

In fact, it is as if the Communist Party is leading its own separate life these days. Intensive party debates take place as if in a vacuum. Civic Forum, in the desire to decrease the role and influence of the Communist Party, has dealt only with the government.

And when Communists venture outside of party meetings, they find little support. For example, when a worker from the Motorlet factory spoke at an opposition rally recently, his words were drowned in whistles and he could barely finish his speech.

``We have suffered enough - 40 years in enough,'' said a retired woman in the crowd.

At the many party meetings - another took place Tuesday night - party chief Karel Urbanek has stressed that a solution to the situation will be found peacefully and through discussion. ``Those who expect the party to use force are mistaken,'' he said at a meeting with some workers.

Mr. Urbanek has also talked about the need for dialogue and the improvement of relations with other parties, but so far this has not happened. Instead, Civic Forum seems pretty much in a position to dictate political change through its contacts with the government, leaving the representatives of the party out of the picture.

Civic Forum is demanding the resignation of President Gustav Husak before Dec. 10, the same date by which it says all 30 remaining political prisoners must be pardoned. Mr. Husak became party chief after the 1968 Soviet invasion, and is held responsible for much that has gone on in the past 20 years.

Civic Forum had demanded Tuesday night that the new government, which probably will have members from a broad spectrum of the Czechoslovak society, should declare as soon as possible its intention to hold free elections. ``If this declaration is not made before the end of the year, the government should resign,'' said the statement from Civic Forum.

When asked how soon elections could be held, Communist Party official Mohorita replied: ``I think they are possible within 12 months.''

Civic Forum's role in the new government is unclear. Havel said that since the opposition group is not a political party, it cannot delegate its members to be part of the government. But, obviously, many of the new members of the government will be close to Civic Forum.

On the 12th day of the Czechoslovak November revolution, there is little talk at all a backlash. The Czechoslovaks feel secure in their struggle for democracy, and that this time, unlike in 1968, they will be able to realize the reforms.

``But isn't it also a bit sad,'' said an active Communist from 1968, ``that we could have had all these changes already 20 years ago.''

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Reforms Gain Momentum
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today