To boycott or not to boycott: Politicians split over whether to attend Castle event

Miloš Zeman, October 28, 2015, photo: Filip Jandourek

Many Czech politicians say they will be staying away from a state awards ceremony at Prague Castle on Friday after the president’s office reportedly crossed a Holocaust survivor off the recipients list. Critics say, however, that such a boycott disrespects the most important state holiday.

Miloš Zeman,  October 28,  2015,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The Office of the President’s alleged removal of George Brady from a list of recipients of state honours on October 28 has hogged the headlines since the story broke on Friday.

His nephew Daniel Herman received the Dalai Lama in Prague and the arts minister says President Miloš Zeman had threatened that Mr. Brady would not get a medal if the visit went ahead.

Almost immediately calls were made for the great and the good to boycott the awards ceremony at Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall on Independent Czechoslovak State Day as a mark of respect for Mr. Brady, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor.

Three of the parties in Parliament – the Christian Democrats, TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats – say all of their legislators will indeed be staying away.

The leader of the Christian Democrats, who are in the coalition government, said the event had degenerated into undignified politicking and score settling.

Zbyněk Stanjura,  photo: Filip Jandourek
However, senior Civic Democrat Zbyněk Stanjura says some of his colleagues were already minded to give the event a miss prior to the current scandal.

“Unfortunately in our view President Zeman has demeaned the state holiday, both in the selection of nominees and the treatment of them. Just to remind you, last year a minister from the communist era received an honour. Therefore, many of us had reason not to attend even before the exceptionally unfortunate case of Mr. Brady.”

The two biggest coalition parties, the Social Democrats and ANO, have taken a different tack. The former say the decision on going is an individual matter, while the latter have recommended attendance.

ANO deputy chairman Jan Volný says he for one will be there.

“We regard October 28 as the country’s most important state holiday. There are many other nominees who without question deserve to receive awards. This affair is unpleasant, but I don’t think it should influence the celebration of this really important holiday.”

George Brady,  photo: CTK
For his part, Constitutional Court head and former dissident Pavel Rychetský said on Wednesday that boycotting the ceremony would be an expression of disrespect to the significance of the day.

Meanwhile, there have been suggestions that the Office of the President have begun inviting former MPs in a bid to ensure that there aren’t lots of empty seats at the Vladislav Hall on Friday.

However, the president’s spokesman has insisted angrily that “extras” are not being sought.