Expert: Spike in extremist events likely to be repeated this year

Photo: Venca24, CC BY 4.0

Last year saw a rise of almost 50 percent in the number of rallies organised by extremist groups in the Czech Republic. According to a freshly released Ministry of the Interior report, many such events were targeted against migrants, with far-right and populist groups viewing the issue as a way of winning new supporters. I discussed the study with extremism expert Miroslav Mareš from Brno’s Masaryk University.

Photo: Venca24,  CC BY 4.0
“This report is no surprise, because we know that this increase in extremist activities was visible in the public space in the Czech Republic.

“So this is maybe something of a recognition of this trend in governmental documents.”

Why do you think this development has come about?

“I think it is maybe connected with new chances for the extreme right in the Czech Republic. It is also connected with international developments.

“We can see the impact of the refugee crisis. We can see the impact of new Islamophobic subjects on the Czech political scene.

“And they also have connections to Germany or to other European countries.”

Is it a new thing that relatively mainstream politicians are involved in these kinds of events, like for example the MP Tomio Okamura, who was with the populist Dawn but is now heading Freedom and Direct Democracy?

Tomio Okamura,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“Yes, we can now see the presence of this radical politics in Parliament.

“It is something new in the Czech Republic because only in the 1990s was a rightwing, extremist party represented in the Czech Parliament [Miroslav Sládek’s Republicans].

“And now, since 2013, we again have a radical populist party in Parliament [Dawn] and this party is connected with extra-parliamentary movements with extremist ideas.”

Would you say this is a worrying development?

“Yes, it is partially worrying.

“On the other hand, the popularity of this movement, if we look to the electoral surveys, is not as high as their public presence.

Miroslav Mareš,  photo: archive of Charles University
“So OK, we can observe a lot of hate speech incidents on the internet, we can observe relatively huge demonstrations and rallies on Czech squares, etc.

“However, the electoral support of this grouping is still relatively limited in comparison with some European countries including, in Central Europe, Hungary or Poland.”

I know you don’t have a crystal ball, but could you imagine another increase in the number of extremist events?

“Unfortunately, yes. I am not a huge optimist in this sense. I think this radical nationalist scene is now on the rise.”