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Czechs Move to Put Communists in Minority Role for First Time

December 10, 1989|From Associated Press

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia — Czechoslovakia appeared headed Friday toward a federal government that will put Communists in the minority for the first time since 1948.

For the first time, the Communists, representatives of the four other small parties permitted in Czechoslovakia, and the opposition held what a Communist spokesman called round-table talks to discuss the new government.

The talks followed weeks of historic concessions by the Communists to the nation's emboldened opposition movement, which has filled the streets with pro-democracy protesters and threatened a general strike Monday unless reforms are made.

Marian Calfa, the Communist tapped to form a government after Premier Ladislav Adamec resigned Thursday, said on national TV Friday that "roughly one-half of the new government could be composed of experts with no political affiliation."

The other half of the Cabinet seats would go to the Communists and members of the four other political parties, government spokesman Marcel Jansen said.

The Communist Party "is convinced that the most important thing is that they are competent and professional," party spokesman Josef Hora said. "The political affiliation is only secondary."

Socialist Jan Skoda, who attended the meeting, said, "It is possible that the Communists could end up in a small minority" in the new government.

In other developments:

The republic of Slovakia's Communist premier, Pavel Hrivnak, and his entire 15-member Cabinet resigned or were fired, the state news agency CTK said. Former Justice Minister Milan Cic was asked to form a new Cabinet.

- Hard-line Communist President Gustav Husak issued an amnesty aimed at meeting opposition demands to release all political prisoners. Federal prosecutor Jan Pjescak resigned.

- Foreign Minister Jaromir Johanes asked the government to replace 21 of the country's ambassadors.

After the talks recessed for the day, CTK reported that Calfa planned to meet over the weekend with those who attended the opening talks to try to have a new government sworn in by today. He did not take part in Friday's discussions.

CTK quoted Bohuslav Kucera, chairman of the small Socialist Party, as saying Friday's meetings helped all parties involved "reach a great consensus" that should enable Calfa to form a new government.

Jansen and opposition sources earlier Friday said the talks would be complicated and cautioned against expecting agreement on a new government too soon.

The first session of talks began at 3 p.m. at Prague's Palace of Culture, a modern structure used for concerts and large Communist Party gatherings.

A second round of talks lasted about 90 minutes. CTK said opposition leader Vaclav Havel attended, as did three other former dissidents the opposition has suggested join the government.

Havel said that "the results will be published soon," but declined to be more specific.

Vasil Mohorita, a member of the ruling Politburo, said a government "representing all parts" of the political spectrum will be named today. He did not elaborate.

Slovak activist Jan Carnogursky said, "Certain gains have been won and it has been agreed that all the political interests will be represented."

He said it was possible he would become a deputy prime minister.

All three spoke after the meetings ended.

A government named Dec. 3 by Adamec included only five non-Communists in a 21-member Cabinet and left Communists in control of all key ministries. The announcement prompted widespread outrage and a new round of demonstrations.

Demands mounted all week for more genuine power-sharing, with the small People's Party, once a docile ally of the Communists but now more outspoken, proposing the 50-50 division between party and non-party members.

Besides the Communists, the People's Party and the Socialist party are permitted in the Czech lands, and the Freedom and Renewal parties in Slovakia.

People's Party chief Josef Bartonicek said his party backs the opposition candidate for first deputy premier, Carnogursky.

Carnogursky was barred from practicing law after he signed the Charter 77 human rights document. He was arrested in August and was in jail awaiting trial on slander charges until his release was granted by Husak in a first wave of concessions to the opposition two weeks ago.

Politburo members Mohorita and Ondrej Saling represented the Communist Party at the talks, Hora said.

Husak's future is expected to be discussed at the talks.

Husak, 76, is the last of the hard-liners associated with the 1968 crackdown on reform left in power. The opposition has demanded his resignation and appears to be pushing Havel as a possible president.

Husak issued an amnesty that covered prisoners jailed on a broad range of 14 charges, including incitement, defamation of the Socialist system and religious rulings frequently used to imprison dissidents and religious activists.

Husak already has released or cleared at least a dozen political prisoners whose release was demanded by the opposition.

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