Václav Havel, the chain-smoking playwright who rallied the Czech nation to overthrow the communist regime, stepped down this week after 13 years as president. In 1989, the scruffy dissident who’d spent years in communist prisons inaugurated the Velvet Revolution with the words, “Truth and love will triumph over lies and hatred.” With idealism and genuine humility, Havel reintroduced his traumatized country to the West, winning invitations into NATO and the E.U. But after three years as Czechoslovak president and two five-year terms as the Czech Republic’s president, he has reached his term limit and will nurse his lung cancer in retirement. So far, the Czechs have been unable to pick anyone to succeed their hero. Despite two attempts, parliament has failed to muster a majority for any candidate, and another vote will have to be taken next month.
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