Since the imposition of effective one-party rule in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, there have been four undisputed leaders, but it is only since the mid-1950s that the leading position has been identified with the post of First or Secretary General of the Communist Party (CPCz). The pre-eminence of the first communist ruler, Klement Gottwald, may be attributed to his combination of the top post within the Party — he was then CPCz Chairman — with high state office. He had been Prime Minister since March 1946 and his transition to the presidency of the republic, following the resignation of Edvard Beneš in June 1948, suggested that political authority continued to be associated with state positions rather than Party posts even after the communist coup. That would explain why the senior figure in the Party after Gottwald’s death in March 1953, Antonín Zápotocký, became President and allowed the newly established post of First Secretary of the CPCz Central Committee to go to the relatively unknown Antonin Novotný in September 1953.
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