Civic Forum

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This article is about the Civic Forum in Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic). See also the Guinean Civic Forum-Social Democracy of Guinea-Bissau and the Civic Forum for Northern Ireland.
Civic Forum
Občanské fórum
Leader Václav Havel, Václav Klaus
Founded 19th November 1989
Dissolved 1991
Succeeded by ODS, ODA, OH
Headquarters Prague
Ideology Anti-communism
Liberal democracy

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 dissident forces in Czechoslovakia and to overthrow the Communist regime. In this, they succeeded when the Communists gave up power in November 1989 after only 10 days of protests. Playwright 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 during the first free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1946. Those elections garnered Civic Forum 36 percent of the vote, the highest that a Czechoslovakian party ever obtained in a free election. This netted it 68 seats in the Chamber of Deputies; combined with Public Against Violence's 19 seats, it commanded a strong majority.

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, the movement divided. The more conservative members, led by Klaus, declared that they would form an independent party, the Civic Democratic Party (Občanská demokratická strana), with a clearer program advocating a free market. The party elected Klaus as its chairman in February 1991. The more liberal members of Civic Forum, led by federal minister of foreign affairs Jiří Dienstbier, formed the Civic Movement (Občanské hnutí). Klaus stated that the two parties 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[edit]

  • 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.