The Communist Party voted Thursday to immediately disband the despised paramilitary People's Militia in another concession to the country's increasingly powerful pro-democracy movement.
The delegates' vote came at a special party congress aimed at shoring up the party's plummeting popularity, the state-run news agency CTK reported.The paramilitary force, which had been under the direct control of the party, was disarmed on Dec. 3 and its weapons stored in army warehouses.
The militia last acted in January when it helped riot police suppress a weeklong series of demonstrations in Prague.
Disbanding the militia was among the earliest demands of the pro-democracy movement, which began rallying hundreds of thousands of Czechoslovaks last month and has since won broad reforms from the party and government.
Delegates were expected to elect a new Central Committee by the close of the congress.
Falling in line with the reform movement in Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia's Communist Party on Wednesday replaced its top leaders with men who accept that the party will no longer enjoy unquestioned supremacy.
Delegates at the special party congress also apologized for the harsh repression of the past. Thursday they were expected to approve a program aimed at bringing democratic socialism to Czechoslovakia.
On Wednesday, the delegates sent a clear message that they want a clean break with the hard-line policies of the past by dumping party boss Karel Urbanek. He had served less than a month in the post.
The delegates gave the job to former Premier Ladislav Adamec, who arranged the first official negotiations with opposition leader Vaclav Havel.
Urbanek was viewed as too closely associated with the hard-line leadership that was ousted by the "gentle revolution" that has brought to an end four decades of one-party tyranny.
The delegates also elected Politburo member Vasil Mohorita first secretary. Mohorita was a key negotiator in talks with the opposition that led to the nation's first non-Communist dominated government in 41 years.
The chairmanship, the more powerful of the two posts, is responsible for dealings with other political forces, which are expected to increase as the country moves toward its first free elections in 43 years.
They are to be held in June or July.