Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Czech Republic holds biggest protests since fall of communism as prime minister faces pressure to resign

Andrej Babis has been accused of fraud and misuse of EU subsidies while in power

Tens of thousands attended the rally in Prague demanding the resignation of Czech Justice Minister, Marie Benesova, saying the new minister might compromise the legal system at a time when prosecutors have to decide whether to indict Prime Minister Andrej Babis over alleged fraud involving European Union funds. (Getty Images)
Tens of thousands attended the rally in Prague demanding the resignation of Czech Justice Minister, Marie Benesova, saying the new minister might compromise the legal system at a time when prosecutors have to decide whether to indict Prime Minister Andrej Babis over alleged fraud involving European Union funds. (Getty Images)

One of Europe’s populist leaders who has previously run on an anti-corruption, anti-Muslim campaign is under pressure to step down.

Czech’s came out in their thousands over the weekend in a mass demonstration in Prague calling for Prime Minister Andrej Babis to resign.

Organisers of the protests, the Million Moments for Democracy group, say they hope a new political movement emerges in the Czech Republic.

They added that 250,000 people took part in the march, though no independent figures have been released by local authorities.

It is believed to have been the biggest protest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when communist rule ended in the country.

Mr Babis is under investigation by the European Union’s anti-fraud team despite running on an anti-corruption campaign himself.

He is also facing investigation in the Czech Republic for alleged misuse of EU subsidies.

Protestors also demanded the resignation of Czech Justice Minister Marie Benesova, saying the new minister might compromise the legal system at a time when prosecutors have to decide whether to indict Prime Minister Andrej Babis over alleged fraud involving European Union funds.

The prime minister, a billionaire worth an estimated $4.1 billion according to Forbes magazine, is accused of hiding ownership of a number of businesses in order to quality for EU subsidies.

Mr Babis has refuted the claims and has refused to resign from his post.

While not necessarily taking a hardline anti-EU stance, the Czech Republic prime minister has firmly opposed quotas for introducing refugees and has been hostile to Muslim migrants – though anti-immigration policies are shared by politicians across party lines in the country.

Sunday’s protests were the fifth in as many months. European Union flags could be seen as protestors vented their anger at the conflicting political and business interests of their prime minister.

A group of students had initially set up the protests, before it morphed into a bigger movement.

Protest organiser Benjamin Roll says a lack of choice in Czech politics has enabled Mr Babis to cling onto power.

Updated: June 24, 2019 05:49 PM

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