Czechs demand new PM
Thousands of Czechs have marked the anniversary of their country’s 1989 anti-communist “velvet revolution” (pictured) by protesting against embattled Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
The protesters gathered on Saturday at Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech Republic’s presidency, to demand the resignations of Babis and his allied president, Milos Zeman.
Billionaire Babis, 64, has been charged with misusing EU subsidies for a farm he transferred to relatives, including his son, Andrej Babis Jr. The prime minister denies allegations of wrongdoing.
His 35-year-old son told Seznam Zpravy last week that he was kept in Crimea against his will so he could not be questioned in the case.
According to Seznam, Babis Jr said his father wanted him away from the criminal inquiry and had given him a choice between “taking an extended holiday” in Crimea or being locked up in an asylum.
The interview with Babis Jr was secretly filmed by journalists using a camera hidden in a pair of glasses, which the prime minister called highly unethical.
Babis has said his son, who lives in Switzerland with his mother, is mentally ill and was in Crimea voluntarily.
“No one kidnapped my son,” he said, according to the BBC. “He travelled from the Czech Republic voluntarily. This matter has been investigated by the police, which came to the conclusion that no kidnapping had taken place.”
About 20,000 protesters shouted “resign” and “we don’t want a prosecuted PM.”
A no-confidence vote in Babis’ cabinet has been called by the opposition which is expected to be held on Friday.
The junior party in the governing coalition, the Social Democrats, will be decisive and its members would not speak to Babis before deciding how to vote.
Zeman said he would give Babis another chance to form an administration if the vote forced him to resign.
A police charge of fraud against Babis and two of his children last year accused the prime minister of manipulating ownership of a firm 10 years ago so it would qualify for €2 million in European Union funding.
It is alleged that the billionaire leader hid his ownership of a hotel known as Stork Nest so he could claim the subsidies.
As the second richest Czech citizen with an estimated net worth of €3 billion, the links to Babis’ family have put him under increased pressure.
Babis posted on Facebook that his son was on medication and his daughter, Andrea, had bipolar disorder. Babis said prosecutors were under pressure from the media in “part of a script to destroy me and get me out of politics”.
Protesters are trying to capture the spirit that drove the communists from power in 1989. Picture credit: Wikimedia