by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Czech voters evicted the communists from parliament on Saturday for the first time since the end of World War Two, voting out a party whose forebears ruled the central European nation from 1948 until the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that ushered in democracy.
The communists jailed tens of thousands in forced labor camps in the 1950s and brutally repressed dissidents such as playwright-turned-president Vaclav Havel, but remained in parliament following the revolution.
In this week’s election, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia took 3.62% of the votes with nearly all precincts reporting, less than the 5% needed to enter parliament and potentially marking a final chapter for a party that has gradually shrunk as its ageing membership dwindled.
“It pleases me, it pleases me a lot,” Jiri Gruntorad, 69, a former dissident who signed the dissident Charter 77 statement and was jailed for subversion from 1981 to 1985 by the communist authorities, told Reuters. “But it’s coming too late.”
“It was one of the last communist parties in the world apart from the Chinese and Cuban ones that held on to its name. The others have at least renamed themselves and started behaving a little differently.”
Voters also handed a defeat to Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ ANO party against centre-right opposition group Together in a surprise result.
After 1989, the communists sought to appeal to senior citizens and working class Czechs but they never resonated with younger voters and failed to shake the party’s history with others as a totalitarian rulers who had stifled freedom.
“I am very disappointed because it is a really big failure,” said Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip, who also resigned.
Havel opposed banning the party — which resisted the country’s European Union and NATO membership and kept warm ties with Russia and China — despite calls from the public to do so.
The communists lingered mostly in isolation after 1989. …