Czechs march in biggest anti-government protest since communism
Well, here we go for another engaging story of a politician in disfavor. This time in the Czech Republic. And the politician who got in hot water is the Prime Minister of the country Andrej Babiš.
On Sunday about 250 thousand people marched in Prague with a demand for the Prime Minister to resign. To understand the scale of the demonstration consider this: this is the biggest anti-government protest in Czech since the communist era. Now you can understand the level of people’s disaffection of the current country leader.
The demonstration was organized in the park, downtown Prague. This march was, in fact, one in a series of protests against the Prime Minister. But this turned down to be the biggest and the most impressive one.
The reason for people being so willing to see Babiš resign is his decision to appoint Marie Benešova, who is a known supporter of his, as a Minister of Justice. It could have been ok, as we see such things happening all the time, if not for one little detail. She was appointed right after the Czech police made public their recommendation to charge the Prime Minister with subsidy fraud involving €2 million in EU funds. With his ally being a Minister of Justice, people presumed Babiš would avoid any criminal charges. And it seems exactly what he was aiming at.
The place the protest took part is not a random one. It is the same spot where on November 25th, 1989 eight hundred thousand people demanded the end of the communist regime in Czech. Like a reminder to the authorities of what once happened when people were not happy with their government and maybe a hint of what can happen.
The recent protest against Babiš was the biggest one in the series, as the number of people getting on the streets keeps growing. The previous demonstration gathered more than a hundred thousand people in the Wenceslas Square — another location associated with the Velvet Revolution. Another hint.
And it looks like the demonstrations growing in scale doesn’t bother the Prime Minister. Or he doesn’t show it in public. Not sure it is a wise thing to do when the ground on burning under the feet. His comment to POLITICO sounds rather calm: “It has been 30 years since the Velvet Revolution and the level of democracy in our country is very high. Demonstrations are part of [the] democratic system in the Czech Republic; people can demonstrate against me or the government and I respect their right to do so.” And all that being under the pressure of the general public and the EU at the same time.
Czech media has recently found that Babiš, who is one of the richest people in the country, had EU subsidies paid to his holding company. The information got leaked from a preliminary European Commission audit and outraged the public.
If the information gets confirmed officially, it means that Czech will have to pay about 17 million euros back to the EU. And it surely won’t be Babiš emptying his own wallet, you can bet on it.
A group called A Million Moments for Democracy, which organized the protests, listed their demands regarding the current situation. Among them is Justice Minister Benešová resignation, the guarantee of an independent judiciary and the end of subsidies, tax relief, investment incentives and government contracts for Agrofert, Babiš’s holding company. It actually looks like the Prime Minister doesn’t give a shit about it, but it’s the try that counts.
One more demonstration is scheduled indicatively for 16th November if nothing changes in the Babiš’s office. Wednesday was scheduled with a vote of confidence in the government by the opposition. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into another European revolution.