European far-right leaders including Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders will gather in Prague this weekend for a controversial conference likely to be met with protests from groups fearful that xenophobic populism is on the rise in the Czech Republic.
The meeting of the rightwing Europe of Nations and Freedom group in the European parliament is being hosted by the anti-Islam Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD), which emerged as a force in Czech politics after winning nearly 11% of the vote in a parliamentary election in October.
Opponents of the meeting have vowed to demonstrate outside the conference venue, Top Hotel in Chodov, seven miles from central Prague, in a show of defiance they say aims to prevent intolerance from taking root in a city defined by the peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution that spelled the end for communism in what was then Czechoslovakia.
The SPD, led by a part-Japanese immigrant Tomio Okamura, attracted electoral support through its slogan “No to Islam, no to terrorism”, in an election won by the ANO party of Andrej Babiš, a billionaire businessman sworn in as prime minister earlier this month.
The growing importance of Okamura’s party was illustrated last week when the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, who is known for hardline anti-Islam rhetoric, addressed its annual conference in a thinly disguised plea for support in his campaign for re-election next month.
Read more at The Guardian