Czech economist and politician Valtr Komarek, a leading figure in the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" that brought down the communist regime, has died at age 82 after a long illness, his family said Thursday.

As head of an institute on economic forecasts, Komarek was instrumental in explaining to his fellow countrymen the challenges facing the country in the transition from a communist state to a multi-party political system and a market economy.

He served as deputy prime minister in the transition government which led then Czechoslovakia to its first free elections after four decades of totalitarian rule in June 1990.

Komarek, honorary president of the CSSD social-democrat party, was in 1989 considered a possible contender for the post of Czech president, which went to the country's famous dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel.

Born on August 10, 1930, in the southeast town of Hodonin, he lost his parents during World War II, who were victims of the Holocaust.

In a condolence message, Czech President Milos Zeman, former head of the CSSD, called Komarek "one of the people who have left the biggest mark on Czech politics since November 1989."