Thousands call for prime minister’s resignation

Protest on Wenceslas Square, Prague, April 9, 2018, photo: CTK

People in close to two dozen Czech towns and cities took to the streets on Monday to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. The organizers of the protest say that while they respect the outcome of October’s general elections, they are not ready to accept a prime minister who faces criminal charges and is listed as a former agent of the communist-era secret police.

Protest on Wenceslas Square, Prague, April 9, 2018, photo: CTK
Chants of “Babiš Out” and “Enough is Enough” resounded on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Monday night, where several thousand people gathered to voice their dissatisfaction with the present state of Czech politics. The organizer of the Prague protest Mikuláš Minář told Czech Radio he hopes Andrej Babiš is listening.

“The aim of this protest is to let Andrej Babiš know that a prime minister who faces charges of EU subsidy fraud and who is listed as an agent of the former communist secret police is unacceptable for a vast number of Czechs.”

Protesters signed a petition calling for a respectable prime minister, which they want to hand over to the lower house and the leadership of Andrej Babiš’ ANO party which won the last general elections by a broad margin. Mikuláš Minář says that by clinging to power Andrej Babiš is stalling the government talks and dragging out the period of political uncertainty.

Andrej Babiš, photo: David Sedlecký, CC BY-SA 4.0
“We will appeal to ANO to pick someone more competent and morally above board to lead the next government. And we will appeal to the president to task someone else with forming a government. We are not protesting against the outcome of the general elections. ANO’s victory was very convincing and we respect that – all we are saying is don’t give us a prime minister who is criminally charged and listed as a former agent of the communist secret police.”

Protesters held up slogans saying “We are not your firm” and “A doughnut in exchange for Democracy? Never!” in reference to Babiš’ election campaign during which he handed out thousands of doughnuts to voters and his present promises of higher wages, pensions and benefits for various groups of the population. One of the protesters told Czech Radio why she was there.

“I don’t like the fact that we are being fed lies. We are being bribed by various perks, but the important issues are not addressed.”

Protest on Wenceslas Square, Prague, April 9, 2018, photo: Martina Schneibergová
The organizers of the protest gatherings say that they will sustain the pressure for as long as necessary until they have achieved their goal which is a respectable prime minister and a government legitimized by a confidence vote in the lower house.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš who is to meet with President Zeman on Tuesday evening to discuss the latest set-back in coalition talks, dismissed the protests against his person as insignificant, saying that the demonstrators were fully entitled to voice their opinion and he had nothing against them doing so.