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Opposition Organizing Frantically for Free Elections With PM-Czechoslovakia

December 13, 1989

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ Less than a month after marching on Wenceslas Square demanding free elections, Lubor Spilchal is overseeing contributions and poster campaigns for the opposition.

The pro-democracy movement, which swiftly overturned 41 years of Communist Party domination, now is frantically organizing for the elections it had long demanded.

Spilchal is an activist with Civic Forum, the main opposition coalition, which is trying to gear up for elections without knowing exactly how they will take shape or when they will occur.

On Tuesday, it was unclear how a new president would be selected. Under the constitution Parliament has until Dec. 23 to elect a president to succeed Communist hard-liner Gustav Husak, who resigned Sunday.

But some legislators want a referendum, with the people making the choice.

There is also the question of when free parliamentary elections will be held. They are expected some time next year.

The uncertainty, as political developments roar like a tidal wave across Czechoslovakia, has left everybody scrambling. Anything seemed possible.

Civic Forum has opened an office at an art gallery near Prague’s old quarter and young volunteers are having trouble coping with the demand for information and requests to join.

″We don’t have any idea how many people have signed up, it’s something like 20,000 a day,″ said Jana Blazkova, handing a registration form to a suburban housewife. ″We’re so busy we haven’t had time to count.″

The office is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., ″but people are still coming long after we are closed,″ said Spilchal. ″We’re having an invasion from the country, people coming from far away. Nearly everyone makes a contribution.″

By midday Tuesday, Spilchal had received more than 10,000 crowns ($1,000), which was to be divided between a student strike fund, the Civic Forum and Vaclav Havel’s campaign for president.

Civic Forum spokesman Lubos Dobrovsky said that in one month the Civic Forum office has collected the equivalent of more than $38,000, and that should cover expenses for about a month.

Some money has been spent for thousands of posters supporting Havel, a playwright often jailed during Communist rule and now the main opposition candidate for president.

The Svoboda print shop kept its presses rolling day and night Monday and Tuesday producing Havel posters. Crowds gathers as the posters were pasted up and some people tore them down to take home.

A young girl from a town near Prague said she was ″taking a few to put up where I live. When they are gone I will come and get some more. It’s hard to imagine free elections.″

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