THE STRAINS OF DEMOCRACY

Besieged Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus doesn't want a national referendum on his country's entry into NATO, mainly, as he put it to The Washington Post, because it would spark ''unnecessary destabilizing debates'' among the political factions. That way he decides which debate is warranted and which isn't.

On the same grounds, he refused to submit the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia to a referendum, even though polls were showing most Czechs and Slovaks were against it. It seems the more voices there are speaking against him, the less he likes the debate.True, not all issues are susceptible to public referendums and the Czech Republic's NATO membership may be among them. But it's wrong to reject it on the grounds it would lead to a public debate.

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