Czech President Who Toppled Communism Takes His Leave

Article excerpt

Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who led the revolution that peacefully toppled Communism in Czechoslovakia more than 13 years ago, was bringing his final term as president to an end yesterday.

The office he leaves remains vacant following two unsuccessful attempts by the Czech parliament to elect his successor. The powers of the president - largely a ceremonial post - will be shared by the Prime Minister and the speaker of the lower chamber of Parliament until a successor can be found.

Parliament's failure to elect a president reflects the difficulty MPs face in choosing a successor to Havel, a legendary figure who led the former Czechoslovakia through the transition from communism to democracy and a free market.

He was elected president of Czechoslovakia in December 1989 following the tumultuous events that led to the collapse of the Communist regime. After that country split up in 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Havel became the Czech president. He is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term.

The constitution requires that parliament elect a president within30 days of the presidential post becoming vacant, but the leaders of the key political parties have so far been unable to reach agreement on a suitable candidate. …