Civic Forum


Civic Forum
This article is about the Civic Forum of the Czech Republic. See also the Guinean Civic Forum-Social Democracy of Guinea-Bissau and the Civic Forum for Northern Ireland.
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The Civic Forum (Czech: Občanské fórum - OF) was a political movement in the Czech part of Czechoslovakia, established during the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The corresponding movement in Slovakia was called Public Against Violence (Slovak: Verejnosť proti násiliu - VPN).

The Civic Forum's purpose was to unify the anti-authoritarian forces in Czechoslovakia and to overthrow the communist regime. In this, they succeeded and Václav Havel, its leader and founder, was elected president on December 29, 1989. Although the Forum did not have a clear political strategy beyond the June 1990 elections, it campaigned successfully in March and April 1990 and managed to win more than 80 percent of the vote in the first free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1946.

The Civic Forum had a very loose structure, and most of its (self-appointed) leaders came from Prague-based members of the Charter 77 dissident movement. In December 1989, Jan Urban became the Forum's chairman after Havel's election as president. Urban served until June 1990, when he resigned, stating he did not want a rift between the organization and the president. On October 16, 1990, Václav Klaus was elected its new chairman. Klaus's policies were opposed by other leading figures within the Forum and party unity soon vanished.

At the Civic Forum congress in January 1991, Klaus's supporters declared that they would form an independent party - Občanská demokratická strana (Civic Democratic Party) - with a clearer program advocating a free market. The party elected Klaus as its chairman in February 1991. Klaus then stated that the ODS and the Civic Movement (Občanské hnutí, the party formed by the remainder of Civic Forum's members and led by federal minister of foreign affairs Jiří Dienstbier) would rule as a coalition until the 1992 elections. However, by July 1991 Klaus declared the inter-party cooperation over. The Civic Democratic Party was victorious in the elections of 1992 while the Civic Movement failed to reach the 5% threshold to enter parliament and eventually disappeared.

References

  • Timothy Garton Ash, We the People: The Revolution of ’89, Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague (Cambridge 1990).
  • Bernard Wheaton and Zdeněk Kavan, The Velvet Revolution: Czechoslovakia, 1988-1991 (Boulder 1992).
  • Paal Sigurd Hilde, "Slovak Nationalism and the Break-Up of Czechoslovakia." Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Jun., 1999): 647-665.

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