Czechians protest PM Andrej Babis

A woman waves a Czech flag from a roof as people take part in a large anti-government protest in Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.
Photo: AP/Peter David Josek

On Saturday, November 16th, 250,000 people gathered in Prague to protest Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis over allegations of fraud. Babis, billionaire and founder of company Agrofert, had been accused of using European Union subsidies for his business and cooperating with the StB, the former Communist secret police force. “I’m very unhappy about the fact that the Prime Minister is a former StB agent and Communist,” one protestor said, “He has no self-reflection whatsoever,”

Despite his denial of these claims, a grouped called the Million Moments for Democracy Association organized the protests at Letna Park and created a petition calling for Babis to resign, collecting over 432,000 signatures. Handheld signs demanding for Babis’ resignation or removal of ties from his company promised to continue fighting until their ultimatum is met. Million Moments posted an official statement on its website, saying “The justice system and the public media are in danger, and the president, disregarding the constitution, is promising, if ever needed, a presidential pardon to the Prime Minister who has been in a huge conflict of interest.”

However, President Milos Zeman, who protesters also demanded resign, publically defended Babis and called the protests undemocratic, citing the statistic that Babis had won the election fairly. “I would like to note that Andrej Babis had 1.5 million votes in an election and I had 2.85 million votes,” he said. “Against that the participation at Letna is a small fraction.” In contrast, Vice Chairman of Million Moments said, “Some of our politicians do not understand why we are here, others do not want to spoil the holidays. The struggle for freedom and democracy never ends.”

These protests were held on the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution which took place at Letna park as well, when Czechoslovakia transitioned from its 41 years of communism to a parliamentary republic. By protesting on this symbolic date, Czech citizens demonstrated their continued dissatisfaction with the state of their country and government. They wanted their voices to be heard. “We are here,” many people chanted, the same slogan used 3 decades ago. 

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