Jews Hail Election of Havel As Leader of New Czech State

The Jewish community here has welcomed the recent election of Vaclav Havel as president of the new Czech Republic, saying the playwright-turned-politician has demonstrated an understanding for Jewish concerns.

Havel, the dissident who led Czechoslovakia after the country’s Communist government was thrown out of power in 1989, was elected Jan. 26 as the first president of the Czech Republic.

Rabbi Karol Sidon, chief rabbi of the Czech Republic, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Havel’s election is “a very good start for the new state.”

Sidon, a fellow-signatory with Havel of the Charter 77 manifesto against the former Communist regime, said he believed Havel would make an even better president now than he was of the old Czechoslovakia.

Havel resigned as president of the former Czechoslovak state last July after Slovak members of the old Parliament blocked his re-election.

Havel campaigned against the breakup of the binational state, but the two republics split apart on Jan. 1.

Sidon said Havel’s experience as Czechoslovak president exposed him to the political realities needed to run a country and thus made him a more capable leader.

Havel’s election as president to the new republic came after a nasty debate in the Czech Parliament.

A group of 11 representatives from the racist, right-wing Republican Party of Miroslav Sladek tried to block Havel’s election by filibustering for several hours.

They insulted Havel and accused him of being a tool of external forces, including a charge that he was being paid off by foreign interests in shekels, the Israeli currency.

In the final tally, Havel won with 109 votes to Sladek’s 14 votes and 49 for the Communist-led left bloc.

Jiri Danicek, president of the federation of Jewish communities of the Czech Republic, stressed that Havel has an understanding for the concerns of the Jewish community.

Danicek, who was another co-signatory of the Charter 77 manifesto, said he regarded Havel as the country’s best choice for president and commended the Czech leader for his moral integrity.

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