Photo: TASR

We had democracy and free elections also during the rule of the communist party before 1989

“socialist democracy existed and elections were free and democratic before the year 1989”.

More than one third of respondents (36%) agreed, according to the April 2018 poll carried out by the FOCUS agency, with the claim saying that

Facts and disproval of the myth ↓

One list of candidates, one ballot paper, one candidate to a position – the people voting as one man. The single list of candidates of the National Front[1] was dominated by candidates from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which was the leading power within the society and the state according to Article 4 of the then constitution. Voters used to put voting ballots to the ballot box without any adjustments, only very few dared to go behind the curtain in the polling station. Although law de iure allowed candidacy of several competitors, no such thing was taking place de facto and only one person stood as a candidate for each position. The voter turnout was close to 100%. Those who did not appear “voluntarily” were suspicious. This is what elections looked like within the totalitarian communist regime before 1989 – the elections that did not feature the basic attributes of free elections held in a democratic society (more in chapter 3.2 Self-government and elections).

The fact that the elections held in Czechoslovakia before 1989 cannot be called free and democratic is confirmed by one of the respondents (aged 58) participating in the poll organized by the FOCUS agency (2018) in the form of group discussions, who said the following: 

 “Those were not democratic elections at all. We had no choice. There was one ruling party and we received one ballot paper. Unlike today, there were no 17 parties and candidates to choose from. Only one ruling party that we had to elect. Those were not democratic elections. “

Frame: Elections during the socialist era[2]

  • commencing from 1971, elections were held in five-year intervals to harmonize their dates with congresses of the party, which used to be held in four-year intervals before, 
  • a congress of the Communist Party of Slovakia was held followed by a congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and elections. There was no purely Czech communist organization,
  • members of the Federal Assembly, the Czech National Council, and the Slovak National Council were elected at the same time. 
  • at the same time, members of the bodies of people´s committees that functioned as state administration bodies at the local level were elected,
  • the list of candidates was uniform and drawn up based on proposals of the National Front, a majority was taken by communists,
  • lists of candidates for presidiums of parliaments was subject to approval by the presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia,
  • the list of candidates was divided as per regions which meant that people could elect only the candidates affiliated with their district and region.

Election of the National Front candidates in 1954. The National Front was created in 1945 as a grouping of all political parties and later it grouped all permitted political parties. But the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) played the main role. The National Front existed until 1990 | Source: Česká televize

[1] After the February 1948 coup, the National Front became of tools of the totalitarian political system. The National Front associated all by the state permitted mass and hobby organizations. Furthermore, it served formally as a kind of communist form of the coalitions of political parties existing in democratic countries. In fact, it was the communist party´s organizational tool serving to control the entire social scene.

[2] Daily newspaper SME, https://domov.sme.sk/c/20109229/za-socializmu-boli-povolene-tri-strany-vyhrat-mohli-len-komunisti.html