Demonstrations were held across the Czech Republic on Monday night voicing broad protest over the recent election of Communist Party MP Zdeněk Ondráček as chairman of the lower house committee overseeing the General Inspectorate of the Security Forces, which investigates the police.
Thousands gathered on Wenceslas Square in Prague as well as in Brno and smaller crowds in at least another nine cities and towns, making their discontent known over the MP’s election. Mr Ondráček was a member of the Communist-era riot police that clamped down on demonstrators in 1989.
Many on the square in Prague jangled keys – a symbol of 1989 – in protest, or carried paper truncheons mocking the riot police who had once tried to stop students and other supporters of democratic reforms by force.
Others on Wenceslas Square on Monday carried slogans saying No to the Communist Party as well as the country’s president, Miloš Zeman, and the prime minister in resignation Andrej Babiš, whose ANO MPs are being blamed by the opposition for making Mr Ondráček’s election possible.
The prime minister had begun backtracking earlier, saying he will push for the official to be recalled from his post.
The former riot unit member Ondráček, meanwhile, has voiced no remorse over his actions against demonstrators in the year that the Velvet Revolution brought down communism in Czechoslovakia.
President Zeman’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček criticised the demonstrations on Twitter as “hateful anti-Zeman protests” in which only politicians who had failed or come up short at the polls were taking part.
Mr Zeman was recently re-elected to a second and final five year term as head of state.
He is seen as a close ally of Mr Babiš – giving him considerable space in his second chance to try and form a viable government. Although Mr Babiš routinely polls as the most popular party leader in the lower house, the protests on Monday seemed to underline that there were political decisions which quite simply crossed the line and remained unacceptable for at least part of the populace.