Opposition Renews Prague Protests
THE battle cry against the Communist regime is again heard in Czechoslovakia as the country braces for a new round of street demonstrations and a possible general strike. After 10 days of demonstrations followed by a week of calm, most Czechoslovaks felt that the struggle for democracy was largely won. They were wrong. And the mood in the country has turned to anger and dismay.
Instead of a broadly based government, Communist Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec made few changes in his new Cabinet announced Sunday. It included only nine new names and is not at all the coalition government that the opposition group Civic Forum had demanded. Sixteen of the 21 posts are still held by the Communists, while only one new minister can be described as close to the Forum.
``This is not a new government,'' said Civic Forum spokesman Petar Pithart. ``A new government must have the trust of the people.''
On Czechoslovak television Sunday night, four representatives of Civic Forum called for a new mass protest rally Monday afternoon, demanded a new government within a week, and said that, if nothing happened, a general strike would take place on Dec. 12.
After a week of back-room maneuvering, strategy meetings, and waiting for the new government, the opposition is again mobilizing forces to bring pressure on the regime. The regime itself is apparently trying to buy time and regain the initiative, testing the strength and the will of the opposition.
The newspaper, Lidova Democracie, published on Monday what it said were previously secret instructions on how the Communist Party should deal with Civic Forum. The authenticity of the instructions could not be confirmed, the paper said, but the aim was apparently to divide the Forum from other groups, limit its access to the media, and deprive it of money, offices, and publications. Although we have lost our constitutional leading role, the instructions said, we must see to it that it goes no further.
But the regime is weakened. If Civic Forum can again mobilize the people, it seems inevitable that the regime must make more concessions.
A key question is whether Civic Forum will continue to let Mr. Adamec lead the government. A minority in the Forum earlier demanded his resignation.
``We cannot trust a government which is more than two-thirds Communist, when the Communist Party has lost the leading role in the society,'' Pithart said.
The opposition also demanded a new government with more experts and young people, and reiterated its demand for free elections no later than July 1990.
Earlier demands of the Forum were clearly not met in the newly formed government. The new defense minister is not a civilian but a general, and the new interior minister, which the Forum wanted to be a nonparty member, is a Communist. Also, the sharply criticized foreign minister, Jaromir Johanes, was retained in spite of Civic Forum's demand that he be replaced.
New Deputy Prime Minister Josef Hromadka, a respected evangelical theologian and one of three so-called independents in the new Cabinet, is the only one in the new government who can be said to be close to Civic Forum. The remaining two Cabinet members come from the small Socialist and People's parties.
The first act of the new Cabinet was to issue a statement condemning the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. It also called for negotiations with the Soviet Union about the future of the Soviet troops now based in Czechoslovakia.
After the announcement of the government and the opposition's angry reaction, Wenceslas Sqaure in central Prague filled with thousands of angry people, many crying that the regime ``is spitting in our eyes.'' At a rock concert, the crowd of tens of thousands demanded the new government's resignation. ``This is a scandal,'' said one young man, ``but what else can you expect from the Communists?''