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Sunday, 2 February, 2003, 19:46 GMT
Czech president bows out quietly
Czech President Vaclav Havel bids farewell at the end of a gala evening in Prague's National Theatre
Havel: A tough act to follow

The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has bid farewell to his nation in a special television address on the last day of his presidency.

KEY DATES
1977: Becomes a spokesman of Charter 77 dissident movement
1989: Elected president of Czechoslovakia after collapse of Communism
1992: Loses battle to keep Czechoslovakia intact and resigns presidency
1993: Elected president of the new Czech Republic
2003: Retires at the end of second term as president
Mr Havel said when he was first elected president in the chaotic days after the peaceful overthrow of communism in 1989, he had only expected to be in office for a few months.

He also reflected on the great changes that have occurred in Czech society over the 13 years since he was elected.

He told Czechs it was regrettable that parliament has not yet elected a successor, but that it was not a catastrophe.

'Citizen Havel'

Mr Havel's farewell had an emotional and personal feel to it.

Former Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus
Former Prime Minister Klaus is jockeying to succeed Havel

He confessed that when he was first elected president in 1989, he had doubts about whether he was up to the job and he also mentioned the death of his first wife, Olga, in 1996.

Mr Havel also said that Czech society had shown admirable patience in dealing with the great changes during his presidency.

And those changes have indeed been great.

During Mr Havel's tenure the country has moved from a centrally planned to a market economy, from communism to democracy.

"Truth and love will prevail over lies and hatred"
Vaclav Havel
Click below to read more quotes

When he took office it was a member of the Warsaw Pact - now it is part of Nato and about to join the European Union.

As Mr Havel leaves office he has no successor, as parliament has been unable to agree on one.

His powers now pass to the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament until a new head of state is elected.

In his television address, he described this as "regrettable but no catastrophe".

He ended on another personal note, telling Czechs that he was leaving as president, but remaining a fellow citizen.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ray Furlong
"Opinion polls show that many Czechs now see him as a remote and distant figure"
See also:

02 Feb 03 | Europe
01 Feb 03 | Media reports
01 Feb 03 | From Our Own Correspondent
31 Jan 03 | Europe
14 Jan 03 | Europe
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