Hundreds of thousands again gather in Prague to voice their opposition to prime minister

Photo: ČTK/Roman Vondrouš

Another mass demonstration against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš took place on Prague’s Letná plain on Saturday. Police estimate that at least 200,000 people gathered on the plain to voice their feelings, but the number could have been as high as 300,000. The organisers of the event, Million Moments for Democracy, called on the prime minister to either end his alleged control of Agrofert, the company he founded, and fire his justice minister Marie Benešová, or resign himself. They threatened to continue with the demonstrations unless he does so by the end of the year.

Despite charges against him being dropped by the state attorney earlier this year, many Czechs are still distrustful of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s influence on his former company Agrofert and the justice system.

This could be seen on Saturday as Prague’s Letná plain was again filled up by demonstrators. When the police issued their estimate that some 200,000 protesters had gathered at Letná, people were still coming in to join in the demonstration. According to organisers Million Moments for Democracy, there were 300,000 attendants. That would mean even more than the quarter of a million who called on Mr. Babiš to resign in June.

Aside from setting out demands towards the prime minister, the leader of the Million Moments for Democracy organisation, Mikuláš Minář, also called on opposition parties to open up more to the public, came up with a realistic vision and increased their election chances through coalitions.

Mikuláš Minář,  photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt
Mr. Minář said that further protests would take place if the prime minister interfered in what he described as “four red lines”. Namely, the justice system, the media, conflicts of interest and abolition – the president’s right to end criminal proceedings against an individual.

“If politicians try to dominate the judiciary, for example by dismissing the attorney general, we will go to the streets. If politicians try to take over the public service media, we will go to the streets. If the prime minister's conflict of interest seriously damages the Czech Republic, for example resulting in funding cuts from the EU, we will go to the streets. And if the President of the Republic misuses his powers, for example by granting the Prime Minister a pardon only because he is his ally, we will go to the streets”.

In an interview with news site Parlamentní listy earlier this week, Czech President Miloš Zeman, towards whom Mr. Minář’s last demand was partly aimed, called Million Moments for Democracy “undemocratic“. He said this is because the organisation "does not recognize the decision of the prosecutor's office in the case of the abuse of European subsidies". Mr. Zeman also said that he would not communicate with its leader, because he “only meets mentally stable people“.

Speaking to news site Novinky about the demonstration, Prime Minister Babiš said that it was “great that people are free to voice their opinions in today’s society without persecution” and highlighted that he came to power in free elections. He also said that a “surprise” was in store when he speaks at the opening of a special exhibition on Czech and Slovak history at the National Museum on Sunday morning. He refused to divulge any further details.