Matt Atlas

Protests Against Babis Continue Into 4th Week

Andrej Babiš

“We will not have one party authorities that may alter the constitution in this nation.” Minar, 26, said the protests have already averted the worst-case scenario by serving the government a warning that it’s being closely watched. Milion Chvilek’s long-term aim, he added, is to help Czechs become more politically engaged to”prevent moving the way of their neighbors” On the square which hosted on the Velvet Revolution, the 1989 demonstrations that brought down the plan, the crowd piled Czech and EU flags and delivered loud whistles each time Babis’ sins were mentioned in speeches.


The populist billionaire insists the case is part of a plot by the country’s “elite” to force him from politics. He remains defiant in the face of the demonstrations. “Complaints about Babis have been common, but now people are afraid it’s no longer a game but a serious assault on democracy,” added fellow activist Benjamin Roll.


They told the prime minister: “We’ve had enough!” As they demanded”judicial independence,””fair government,” and Benesova’s dismissal. Fifty-thousand people stuffed Wenceslas Square on Tuesday to protest what they say is an assault on judicial independence that threatens to ship the country down a similar route with its neighbors who are pilloried.


Although his anti-establishment Ano party won elections in 2017 on the back of promises to reject migrants and stamp out corruption, mainstream political parties have refused to cooperate, citing the potential charges. That has left Babis leading a minority government that relies on support from hardline parties on the left and right.


“People have the right to protest,” government spokesperson Jana Adamcova told reporters. “But the ministry was democratically elected and got the right to pick whichever ministers he needs.” “There are precedents from Hungary and Poland demonstrating the devastation of democracy begins with attacks on judicial independence,” said Vratislav, a 34-year-old bank worker from Prague holding a sign featuring Babis behind bars. However, Jiri Pehe, a political analyst and an adviser to former president Vaclav Havel, said the Czech political system has more robust defenses against authoritarian takeover than its regional peers.


“I think they’ve crossed the line,” Mikulas Minar, among the student creators of the Million Moments for Democracy (Milion Chvilek), the NGO coordinating the protests, told reporters when asked whether the presentations have picked such momentum up so quickly. Milion Chvilek fears the new justice minister will derail the case against Babis and is calling for guarantees that supreme state prosecutor Pavel Zeman, who is now deciding whether to press charges, will not be replaced. Many claim this support is orchestrated by President Milos Zeman, a controversial populist with links to Russia and China, under a suspected power-pact with the prime minister.


However, as Babis is weakened by scandals, so Zeman’s leverage grows. Benesova is a long-time confidante of the president, and her appointment has raised concern that Czech democracy could be threatened along the same lines as in some Central European neighbors. Babis, who put his agricultural and chemicals conglomerate Agrofert into a trust before becoming government leader in 2017, rejects the conclusions of the Czech police and the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF that he hid ownership of a leisure resort named Storks Nest in order to qualify for a two million euros small business grant from the EU.


The episode marked a week of presentations because of the appointment of Marie Benesova as justice minister in April. Her nomination came later investigators advocated Prime Minister Andrej Babis must face fees for European Union subsidies fraud. “Czech institutions are a great deal more powerful, and the governmental system signifies Babis has less leverage than [Hungary and Poland’s leaders] Orban or even Kaczynski,” Pehe told this reporter. However, there are worries that it may not be Babis calling all the shots.


Via Al Jeezera