Over 250,000 Czech protestors gathered in Prague’s Letna park to demand Prime Minster Andrej Babis’ resignation.
It is the country’s fifth protest in a series of mass demonstrations and “the largest show of public anger since the 1989 Velvet Revolution,” according to Aljazeera. The calls for resignation follow police recommendation that the Prime Minister face fraud charges for an alleged misuse of an EU subsidy over a decade ago.
Babis is accused of having tapped into EU funds to build a conference center and hotel outside of Prague, yet he insists there was no misconduct.
The Czech people’s concerns over his past actions and his present refusal to face consequences were further exacerbated by the appointment of a new Justice Minister immediately after the formal fraud charges against Babis were announced. Mass protests soon followed as a result of growing suspicions that the new Justice Minister would influence proceedings in Babis’ favor.
Mikulas Minar, a theology student who organized the Milion Chvilek group, a civic group that planned the protests, says “[Czechia] has many problems and the government is not solving them. It is not solving them because the only worry of the prime minister is how to untangle himself from his personal problems.”
Despite the legitimate concerns of the Czech people, the prime minister refuses to step down from his role. He maintains his innocence and calls all allegations “fake news,” spread by members of the political elite he replaced.
While he attempts to outlast the protests, the allegations have multiplied.
Media reports in late May have found Babis “in breach of conflict-of-interest rules regarding EU funding to Agrofert, the agrochemicals conglomerate Babis had founded and put into a trust before becoming prime minister,” reports Aljazeera. This may result in Czechia having to repay $19.8m of funding.
Daniel Prokop, a sociologist for a pollster, estimates that 20% of Czechs believe the accusations are a conspiracy against Babis. Additionally, according to a poll by Kantar agency, Babis’ ANO movement remains the most popular party, suffering only a slight dip to 27.5% following the allegations.
There are nationwide calls for Babis to face repercussions. In a time where political corruption seems to be an ever-growing problem, the ability to protest is a valuable outlet for frustrations and a tool for change. The Czech people’s refusal to allow a money-driven, duplicitous leader to profit off of resources meant for their country is incredibly admirable. Remaining silent in the face of a fraudulent system only ensures that the party responsible for the wrongdoings faces little to no repercussions, encouraging the pattern of behaviour to continue.
While the Czech people await a decision from the state prosecutor regarding the fraud charges and a finalized EU audit, they will hopefully continue demanding for Babis’ resignation and greater political transparency in order to increase the trust between the citizens and their government.
Putting stress on politicians in light of the Prime Minister and his corruption via mass demonstrations is one way Czech citizens can voice their concerns and be heard in a political system that has continuously failed them.
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