Czech PM must quit, say 50,000 protesters

People gather to protest against Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis at the Wenceslas Square in Prague, Czech Republic, 10 December 2019. [Martin Divisek/EPA/EFE]

Tens of thousands of Czechs rallied in central Prague on Tuesday (10 December) demanding the resignation of populist billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babiš over fraud allegations.

Prosecutors reopened a previously closed case last week alleging that he fraudulently obtained EU subsidy money in 2007, four years before he entered politics.

Babiš has denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down.

Tuesday’s protest came after even bigger anti-Babiš rallies in June and November, the largest such events since the end of communism in 1989.

How Czech media reported about the largest protest since 1989

Europeans were stunned by the magnitude of the protests in Prague on Sunday (23 June): reportedly 250,000 people demanded Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to step down over allegations of graft. But what was even more stunning is the way the Czech media reported about them.

The rally, in Prague’s iconic Wenceslas Square, was organised by Million Moments for Democracy, a protest movement started by students who aimed to bring down Babiš over his failure to tackle corruption.

“This thick-skinned guy with his relaxed certainty that people will buy his lies is not a man who should represent me,” protester Josef Smycka, a pensioner from the eastern city of Olomouc, told AFP.

On top of the fraud inquiry, Babiš is now facing claims of conflict of interest.

A European Commission audit concluded that his business interests were incompatible with his political role, according to leaked documents obtained by Czech media.

EU audit finds Czech Prime Minister Babis in conflict of interest

A European Commission audit has confirmed that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is in a conflict of interest due to his former business empire that he has put into trust funds, weekly Respekt reported on its …

The audit also suggests his firm, Agrofert, should return hefty sums in EU and state subsidies.

Babiš says he transferred Agrofert into two trust funds, as required under Czech law.

Protester Zuzana Pelantova, who owns a farm south of Prague, is not convinced.

“We can’t have a man with a conflict of interest at the head of the government, managing the entire society, with his incredible powers and arrogance,” she told AFP.

Babiš leads a minority coalition — his ANO movement formally partnered with the Social Democrats, relying on the support of Communist Party lawmakers.

Despite Babiš’s woes, ANO still tops opinion polls with stable 30% support.

Babiš is expected in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for the last EU summit for the year.

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