The MEP Jiří Pospíšil says he will focus on preparing TOP 09 for local
and Senate elections, if he wins election as the party chairman in an
election next weekend. The grouping’s long-term leader Miroslav Kalousek
is stepping down after TOP 09 did poorly in elections last month.
Mr. Pospíšil is a former deputy chairman of another right-wing party, the Civic Democrats. He is as yet the only candidate for the top job in TOP 09.
Dozens of Czech theatres will open their doors to the public on Saturday
evening as part of a nationwide Theatre Night. Theatres are putting on
performances and offering tours of their backstage areas in 30 cities and
towns free of charge or a for a nominal admission fee. This year’s
edition is entitled Forever Young and is especially targeted at youth and
The event is part of the European Theatre Night, which has been held on the third Saturday of November since 2008. Czech institutions are participating for the fifth time and local organisers say turnout usually exceeds 50,000.
A man who posted a video online of himself encouraging his young daughter
to beat a pillow with a baseball bat as if it were a “gypsy” or a
Muslim has received a suspended one-year sentence, Lidovky.cz reported. The
man, who is 27, will also be monitored by probation and mediation services
after being found guilty of promoting race hate and endangering the
upbringing of a child, the news site said. The case was heard at a court in
Benešov last month.
Numerous reports were made to social services after the video went viral on the Czech internet in the summer.
A book exploring the part played by women in the anti-Communist dissent has
been launched in Prague. Entitled Bytová revolta: Jak ženy dělaly disent
(Apartment Revolution: How Woman Made the Dissent), it features profiles of
21 women who were not afraid to stand up to the Communist authorities in
the normalisation period of the 1970 and 1980s.
Among those who attended the launch were then dissidents Marta Kubišová, Dana Němcová and Kamila Bendová.
One of the organisers of the Women in Dissent project, Marcela Linková, said there was a perception that the women had supported male dissidents but in fact they had carried out the same activities as men.
Ski jumper Jakub Janda, who was recently became an MP, is to take part in
his final competitive event on Saturday. Mr. Janda, who is 39, will take
part in a team event in a World Cup meeting at Wisle in Poland. He failed
to make it into Sunday’s individual final.
Mr. Janda was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a member of the Civic Democrats. He is one of 120 first-time MPs due to sit in the new lower house, which was elected in October and convenes on Monday.
Several now elderly people who were persecuted by the Communist regime were
honoured with the Memory of Nations award at Prague’s National Theatre on
Friday night in one of a number of events marking Struggle for Freedom and
Democracy Day. The award went to former political prisoners František
Suchý, Mária Matejčíková and priest František Lízna, as well as to
Otto Šimko, a Holocaust survivor who was repeatedly persecuted because of
his Jewish origins.
The Memory of Nations award has been presented annually since 2010 by the non-profit organisation Post Bellum, which records and makes accessible interviews with victims of the Nazi and Communist regimes.
At least two supporters of the far-right Workers Party for Social Justice,
ended up in handcuffs in Prague on Friday afternoon after verbally and
physically assaulting the police after they were prevented from continuing
in their march towards the Old Town Square. Specially-trained anti-conflict
police were on hand to defuse the situation, as several demonstrators
demanded they be allowed through on Hybernská street.
Some shouted they should be allowed to continue "in a democracy". Novinky.cz carried live video of the march, which showed several protestors purposely blocking traffic after being told to turn back.
Commemorative events are taking place around the Czech Republic to mark the
events of November 17, 1989, when communist police cracked down on students
on Prague’s Národní třída, sparking the Velvet Revolution which
brought down the regime which had held power for more than 40 years.
On Friday, the first politician to visit the memorial at Národní třída was Andrej Babiš, a former businessman turned politician who heads the ANO Party and has been tasked with forming a minority government after winning the election in October.
He was flanked by other members of his party including Defence Minister Martin Stropnický, Justice Minister Robert Pelikán, and Prague Mayor Adriana Krnačová.
Mr Babiš was met by several vocal demonstrators who brought up allegations he had collaborated with the communist-era secret police and allegations of subsidy fraud in the Stork’s Nest scandal. Mr Babiš said that they had every right to express their opinion, one of the gains of the Velvet Revolution. He expressed the view that 28 years since the events of 1989, Czech society was too divided and polarised. Long-time political opponent Miroslav Kalousek, who lit a candle at the memorial later, reacted to Mr Babiš’ words by saying that society’s strength was built on variety, not union.
Other politicians from the major parties, such as Civic Democrat leader Petr Fiala but also presidential candidates as well as regular citizens continued to visit the site of the memorial throughout the day, lighting candles. Absent this year was the head of state, Miloš Zeman. His spokesman, Jiří Ovčáček, said the president as someone who had been an "active participant" in 1989 would mark the day in private.
November 17th also marks the 78th anniversary of brutal Nazi repression and murder in 1939, after students had organised a march to commemorate the death of Jan Opletal, a young man killed by the Nazi occupiers. One witness to those events, Vojmír Srdečný (who is 98 now and was a 20-year-old student at the time), said that the Gestapo and German soldiers had swept into student dorms in Prague, Brno, and Příbram, and dragged students off to Ruzyně prison. Nine student leaders were murdered by the Nazis and more than 1,000 sent to Sachsenhausen, he said at a commemorative event on Friday.
Events on the day are scheduled at a memorial on Narodní třída, as well as Albertov and on Prague’s Wenceslas Square which saw the number of demonstrators in the days of the Velvet Revolution swell to almost one million.
A concert called Concert for the Future will take place on the square beginning at half-past four in the afternoon. Performers include Zrni, Ema Smetana, Švihadlo, and Laco Deczi.
Security on November 17th has been increased accordingly and police are monitoring events closely: some 24 events were officially registered – nine of which are marches through the city. Police will be aiming to prevent right-wing and leftist extremists from crossing paths and clashing or any other potential violence.
The freethinking part of Czech society suffered several defeats in recent
years, rector of Masaryk University in Brno, Mikuláš Bek maintained in
his address to attendees at Albertov in Prague on Friday marking the
courage and dedication of students and others who fought oppression in
Czechoslovakia on November 17, 1939 and 1989.
Freedom and democracy, he said, needed to be cared for and he said one shouldn't be afraid to fight for it. In his speech, he ranked the first direct presidential election as one defeat freethinking society had suffered recently. The rector added there was "no reason to panic" and that education could change Czech society for the better.
The rector of Charles University, Tomáš Zima, remembered the courage of students in both 1939 and 1989 and said he had no doubt if freedom and democracy were threatened today, people would again stand up in its defense.