Thousands of protesters on Saturday matched on Prague to express discontent over the Czech government’s foreign and economic policies.
The protesters, who numbered about 70,000 and represented the anti-migrant Freedom and Direct Democracy Party and the Communist Party, were displeased with the government’s handling of the country’s rising inflation, a situation they say is made worse by a rise in energy prices, Covid-19 vaccinations, and immigrants. On the foreign front, the protesters condemned the government for taking sides in the Ukraine war, instead of maintaining a neutral stance.
Why did they want neutrality?
Their demand for neutrality is predicated upon the country’s current energy challenge, which they argue could have been avoided had the government ensured direct contracts with gas suppliers, including Russia. Accusing the government of paying more attention to Ukraine than to its own citizens, the protesters demanded the resignation of the coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala, which assumed office less than a year ago.
How did the government respond?
Reacting to the protest, PM Fiala said that the protesters and those behind them do not have the best interest of the country at heart, adding that they are being influenced by Russian propaganda and disinformation. “The protest on Wenceslas Square was called by forces that are pro-Russian, are close to extreme positions, and are against the interests of the Czech Republic”, he said. On the rising cost of energy, Czech, which currently holds the EU presidency, is looking to hold an emergency meeting of EU members this week to find collective measures to ease the crisis.