Czech top officials in war of words over migrant crisis
Relations between the Czech president and prime minister have hit an all-time low over the migrant crisis. After weeks of restraint, Prime Minister Sobotka recently accused the president of populism and “legitimizing xenophobia”. President Zeman has now lashed back, accusing the head of government of putting the country at risk by his indecisiveness and humanistic stance.
The war of words erupted on the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution when the prime minister warned against the radicalization of society and made an uncharacteristically strong appeal for the country to be open to refugees in need of help. On the same day the president addressed a crowd of his supporters sharing the stage with the head of the Block Against Islam, who is now charged with hate speech, telling Czechs that the country should be free to make its own decisions and that those who refuse migrants are neither xenophobes nor racists.
“The prime minister needs to balance his act, so to speak, simply because he also has to respond to the EU, he has to make sure that he does not just ride the wave of populism at home, whereas the president does not have to do this – he is not the head of the government –and is free to engage in whatever populist politics he wants to.”
While spats between the president and prime minister are not uncommon, the words exchanged in the past few days have been uncharacteristically sharp. In an interview for Thursday’s Mladá fronta Dnes the president even accused the prime minister of putting the country’s security at risk by failing to recognize the dangers of the migrant crisis which he described as “an organized invasion”. The prime minister dismissed the idea, countering that from the start of this crisis his government had made security a top priority. Commentator Jiří Pehe says that this rift between the country’s top officials is different from the many others they have mended in the past.