Havel Meets Wawel

On Monday, Polish Czechophiles got a rare treat, as not only was Czech former president and esteemed writer and commentator Vaclav Havel in Krakow, legendary Czech protest rockers Plastic People of the Universe played a special show. However, unfortunately not that many people braved the rain to listen to the concert, and it was Havel who ended up rocking (the boat) the loudest. The renowned dissident did what he does best: stirred up some anger and attention with his words.

The resulting controversy began when the former president suggested that international observers need to monitor the upcoming possible Polish elections. Havel was quoted by the Polish PAP news agency as saying, "I have the impression that (in Poland ) free elections should be conducted as soon as possible... I feel that it would be in the interests of all Polish citizens, if international observers were to be invited to the elections." While opposition parties are mostly in agreement (as far as the need for elections goes), the current scandal-ridden government, though also urging elections, is not too fond of Havel's remarks. The suggestion that "Poland is an undemocratic country" and that elections could be fraudulent has upset even Polish friends of the former President such as Lech Walesa. However, Havel's remarks are a result of allegations of political coercion used by the prime minister to silence his opponents, a very un-democratic practice.

The former Czech president was in Krakow for the launch of the Polish edition of his latest book, Strucne, prosim (Briefly Please). This Friday will decide the fate of early elections, as in Warsaw the parliament will vote on whether or not to dissolve itself.


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