Czechs Give Havel Party a Landslide : East Europe: Communists running a distant third. Civic Forum may be able to govern without a coalition.
Civic Forum, the pro-democracy group that rose from the streets to oust the Communists from power here last autumn, appeared on its way to a landslide victory Saturday in the first free elections in Czechoslovakia in 44 years.
Early projections showed the umbrella organization of 11 parties and human rights movements racking up a 52% majority, which would assure it control of the federal Parliament.
The Communists were running well back in third place with 10% of the vote. An alliance of three parties under the Christian Democratic banner was in second place with 12% of the vote.
If the projections hold through official tallies, it means that Civic Forum, led by President Vaclav Havel, the former dissident playwright, will be able to control the government without relying on a coalition with rival parties. The final official count is expected today.
An early count released by the federal election commission showed Civic Forum gaining 48.5% of the Federal Assembly seats, but the count reflected less than 10% of the vote, much of it from smaller polling stations in rural areas.
The projections indicated that about 18 other parties competing in the election will fail to win the 5% share required to win seats in the 300-seat Assembly.
Federal election officials said the turnout exceeded 90%, a level of participation that was, in itself, a slap in the face to Czechoslovakia’s former hard-line Communist masters. It was a stunning reversal of the public apathy that Czechoslovaks had demonstrated in the face of 40 years of Communist rule.
The exit polling was conducted by a West German firm, INFAS, which earlier predicted the outcome of the East German elections within 1.6% accuracy and the Romanian elections within 3%. The poll was based on interviews with 12,000 voters.
The projections showed Civic Forum winning 60% of the vote in the Czech lands of Moravia and Bohemia, with the Communists polling 9.5% and the Christian Democrats 7.5%.
In Slovakia, Civic Forum’s sister party, Public Against Violence, was winning 37%, the Christian Democrats 21% and the Communists 11.5%. In Slovakia, the Christian Democrats ran a campaign based heavily on nationalist issues, a theme that apparently accounted for the party’s strong showing there.
The Christian Democratic cause in the Czech republic appeared to have been damaged by allegations that the leader of one of its constituent parties, Josef Bartoncik of the People’s Party, was for years on the payroll of the Czechoslovak secret police, the STB.
In a dramatic announcement Saturday, government officials announced that they had documentary evidence that Bartoncik had been on STB’s list of paid agents from 1971 through 1988. His job, officials said, was to report on the activities of parties within the Communist government’s “national front” coalition and to use his connections to pass on information on Charter 77, a dissident human rights organization that Havel had helped form.
Presidential assistant Jiri Krizan said the information on Bartoncik had been slow to come to light because his file did not turn up among those of other informers in the Interior Ministry. Information about Bartoncik’s work for the STB, Krizan said, came from Bartoncik’s STB control officer.
Krizan and Deputy Interior Minister Jan Ruml said the government had decided to make the information public because Bartoncik had failed to keep a promise, made to Krizan and President Havel, to withdraw from the elections and retire from public life. Krizan said he and Havel visited Bartoncik early this week and showed him the accumulated evidence, suggesting it was better that he retire than have the issue aired publicly. Krizan said Bartoncik, who now serves as deputy president of Parliament, did not deny the allegations.
The election commission reported no irregularities or protests associated with the voting, which went smoothly--and enthusiastically--in all sections of the country. In the town of Kemenny Most, 20 miles from Prague, local election officials said 206 of the village’s 208 eligible voters showed up at the polls.
One surprise in the early returns was the weak showing of the Greens, which polled under 4% in voting for the Federal Assembly and for the Czech and Slovak republican parliaments. Although environmental issues are high on the list of national concerns here, many voters said they voted for Civic Forum out of a sense of gratitude toward it for leading the country’s revolt against the Communists and returning Czechoslovakia to the community of democratic nations.