bne IntelliNews – Far-Right Rally in Prague Demands Peace and Restart of Russian Gas Imports
Czech Statehood Day saw a series of rallies across the country calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s cabinet, the largest of which was held in Wenceslas Square in downtown Prague.
The rally, attended by far-right and far-left politicians, was called by the same organizers as the previous rally in Prague earlier this month, which drew a crowd of 70,000, shocking many observers veterans of the far-right scene.
Police put the size of the crowd on September 28 at “a few tens of thousands” and Czech analyst of pro-Kremlin activism in the country, Roman Maca, put the figure at between 20,000 and 30,000 in his Facebook post about the rally.
Organizers Ladislav Vrabel and Jiri Havel demanded the resignation of the cabinet, early elections and that the country be run by “pro-national experts”. They plan to ask President Milos Zeman to “dismiss the cabinet” on October 10. Zeman is a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and in 2013 he controversially appointed an interim cabinet made up of his political allies when the cabinet of Petr Necas (ODS party) collapsed amid the scandals of corruption.
“We want to change the political course of our country 180 degrees. We want to achieve this change through non-violent means,” Havel said from the stage.
The organizers have published a 10-point “Czech Republic first” plan on their website which includes “guaranteeing direct contracts with low-cost gas importers – i.e. mainly with the Federation of Russia”.
The plan has very nationalistic and anti-EU overtones in that “electricity must be supplied by our Czech (and not foreign) companies” or that agriculture must be “independent of EU subsidies” and ” without genetically modified foods.
It also demands that nuclear tenders “be won by the best companies, and not by companies from countries that are friendly with the current government”. This is an argument used in the past by politicians like Karel Havlicek (ANO party) or Martin Kuba (ODS) to maintain in vain the Russian state agency Rosatom in the tender for the extension of the nuclear power plant by Dukovany.
The two organizers have also staged protests against COVID-19 restrictions and appear to be making money from their activities.
The next rally is scheduled for October 28, the national holiday commemorating the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
Local media describe the crowds as largely middle-aged and older. They waved Czech flags and carried posters referencing Czech national myths, such as one calling on the knights sleeping under Blanik Hill to wake up when the country needed them.
A protester in Prague said Actuelne.cz journalist Radek Bartonicek, who posted interviews on his Twitter account, that “in 40 years I have never experienced if I should turn on [my heating] or not” and that “it must stop”.
This man said it had nothing to do with being pro-Russian and the people around him agreed, saying they want ‘peace’ and ‘the war to end,'” negotiations with Russia begin” and “stop sending weapons” which are supposed to prolong the war in Ukraine. These demonstrators did not express opinions against Ukraine.
Another man said: “We don’t need to kiss Vladimir Putin, but it’s about business dealings and we don’t have many options.” He added “what I heard is that Putin is interested in talking and making deals” and that “everything is missing [of energy] is artificially created, there is enough gas and electricity but no will”.
Czech singer Ortel, who has a history of racist and white supremacist statements, sang the Czech national anthem on stage. Jaroslav Foldyna of the SPD, Katerina Konecna of the Czech Communist Party, a socially conservative and pro-Kremlin party, and two far-right German AfD MPs were among the notable political figures at the Prague rally.
There were a series of similar rallies in other major cities, but only in Prague, Brno, Ostrava Pilsen were there crowds described as over a thousand. In Brno, the estimate is 1,500 according to local police, and Czech radio gave the figure of 1,000 for Ostrava and 1,000 to 2,000 for the rally in Plzen.
The Ostrava rally was organized and addressed by far-right, anti-EU SPD leader Tomio Okamura, who said “we don’t want war, we want peace” and called on Fiala’s cabinet to stop rising prices.
Okamura also suggested that the firm nationalize CEZ, a majority state-owned company, to ensure the sale of energy to the Czech market first and guarantee prices and margins reflecting production costs and corresponding profits.
The SPD made gains in recent municipal elections, entering the Prague City Assembly for the first time in history. Recent national polls give nearly 15% support for the SPD.
Czechia is due to hold the second round of senatorial elections this weekend, which will largely be a runoff between billionaire Andrej Babis’ populist ANO party and Petr Fiala’s five-party coalition parties. Babis has so far kept his distance from the rallies, while expressing sympathy for people’s anger at the government.
September 28 is the Czech State Day commemorating Saint Wenceslas, a Bohemian prince assassinated by his brother and venerated by the Catholic Church. During World War II, under the Nazi protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the fascist puppet government attempted to channel Czech nationalism into the worship of St. Wenceslas.