Parliament session turns stormy over November 17th anniversary

18-11-2004

Fifteen years after the fall of communism the Czech Republic still has problems coming to terms with the past and many important issues remain highly controversial. Should the communists have been outlawed immediately after the revolution? Has the country made good use of the fifteen years of freedom or have the ideals of the revolution been betrayed? Czech society is still racked by conflict and a special parliament session devoted to the anniversary clearly reflected this state of affairs.

The communist party leader Miroslav Grebenicek, photo: CTKThe communist party leader Miroslav Grebenicek, photo: CTK Wednesday's Parliament session turned into a slinging match with politicians blaming each other for whatever they considered to have gone wrong with the country in the past fifteen years. Even before communist party leader Miroslav Grebenicek took the stand to thunder about the country's having become "a pillar of American imperialism", the former president Vaclav Havel and the majority of right wing deputies left the assembly hall, while President Klaus remained to shake his head in disbelief at what he was hearing. The Communist party leader had little praise for the Czech Republic today and insisted that the communist past, when people had allegedly led contented lives, was now being demonized. He said he would not pander to "vulgar anti-communism which had even found its way into school textbooks".

The President Vaclav Klaus in the Parliament, photo: CTKThe President Vaclav Klaus in the Parliament, photo: CTK But, how is it that the communists are strong enough to make themselves heard in Parliament today? According to the right-wing Civic Democrats it is the poor performance of the ruling Social Democrats which is giving the communists a great many protest votes and swelling the ranks of its supporters. While the Social and Civic Democrats exchanged insults and recriminations, President Klaus said that the four decades of communism would forever remain part of the country's legacy and that Czechs society should not forever be divided into "victims" and "perpetrators". He urged Czechs to look ahead and build on what they have achieved.

"Today, thanks to November 17th of 1989 we live in a stable democracy and each of you is free to advance their life's dream - as never before in the past. Make good use of it" - the President urged Czechs.

He said it was only natural that in the new environment some were more successful than others: "Some do better, some do worse - but that's life. We are not living in a vacuum - we are out there in the real world and sometimes it's windy" the President said.

18-11-2004

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