Largest protest since 1989 on Prague’s Wenceslas square as battle rages on for the PM’s political future

05-06-2019

News outlets from across the world reported on Tuesday’s demonstration calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, which organisers say had the largest turnout since the Velvet Revolution. Among the tens of thousands of protesters were many representing the regions, where the PM’s party has its main power base.

Photo: ČTK/Michal KamarytPhoto: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt “He’s a thief!” was just one of the many chants echoing through a packed Wenceslas Square on Tuesday evening, in reference to a leaked EU preliminary audit, which indicated that his former company, now in trust funds, may have drawn EU funds in violation of the law.

Organisers say that attendance lay at around 120,000 people and it was difficult to move at all in large parts of the square.

Photo: Martina SchneibergováPhoto: Martina Schneibergová Many of the protesters proudly displayed banners bearing the names of the towns and villages they had arrived from, disproving claims by some supporters of the prime minister that these demonstrations are only attended by so-called “urban liberals” from Prague.

As the demonstration was getting underway, the main organiser of the demonstration Mikuláš Minář told Czech Radio that the turnout from those coming outside of Prague was massive.

“Packed trains are arriving from large regional cities, but also villages like Sušice have been sending full buses of people. It’s incredible.”

Furthermore, an in-depth picture of those attending the protests was conducted by Czech Radio’s online news service, iRozhlas. It revealed a wide generational diversity among attendees.

Reporters gathered 130 interviews with random protesters across the whole square asking who they were and why they were there.

Mikuláš Minář, photo: Martina SchneibergováMikuláš Minář, photo: Martina Schneibergová Interviewees ranged from teenagers to 80 year olds, with the overwhelming majority saying they had come because of the prime minister.

Many pensioners, who are traditionally seen as the voter base of Andrej Babiš’s ANO party, said they would not be bought by increases to their pensions and were thinking about the future of their grandchildren.

At the time of the protest a heated debate in Parliament was raging over the results of the EU audit.

The prime minister launched a fierce attack against the European Commission, accusing “Brussels bureaucrats” of telling the country how to interpret its laws.

“The audit is very doubtful and I consider it as an attack on the Czech Republic and its interests, as a destabilisation of the Czech Republic.”

Meanwhile the opposition managed to pass a call that in the case of financial damage to the state, the culprit will be held responsible and the burden would not rest with tax payers.

A further opposition call for seizing funding pay-outs by the Czech state to Agrofert affiliates did not pass.

Minister for Regional Development (ANO) Klára Dostálová told Czech Television the reason for this was because the Finance Ministry had already ceased funding pay-outs since August 2018.

However, she was unable to offer precise details on which projects.

Photo: ČTK/Michal KamarytPhoto: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt
05-06-2019