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Czech Republic: Protests to resume next month to ‘defend democratic institutions’

Prague, Czech Republic – Local organization ‘Milion Moments for Democracy’ announced it will hold protests in Prague on March 1 to “defend democratic institutions” following the controversial nomination of Stanislav Krecek as the country’s next ombudsman.

Czech MPs elect controversial new ombudsman

The nomination, last week, of former deputy ombudsman Stanislav Krecek as the country’s new defender of rights by the Czech Chamber of Deputies sparked concerns in the ranks of the opposition and among civil activists.

A former MP from the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), Krecek, 81, is due to replace current ombudsman and former anti-communist dissident Anna Sabatova as her six-year term ends this week. The candidate of President Milos Zeman supported by the ruling ANO party of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, he was elected in a secret ballot after receiving 91 votes out of the 175 votes cast by MPs from the lower house of Parliament.

His election was criticized by opposition politicians, who saw his nomination as the latest example of the pact between President Zeman and PM Babis and another attack against the independence of the country’s democratic institutions. Stanislav Krecek had previously sparked controversy when he downplayed the ombudsman’s role as defender of the rights of minorities, argued that he would focus on defending the rights of the majority, described Muslim migrants as an “invasion” and came out in support of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, facing domestic and EU investigations for alleged fraud and conflict of interest.

Czech NGO plans protests from March 1st

“He wants to return to the original conception of the institution”, argued ANO MP Martin Kolovratnik. “He will put forward opinions on how state officials should behave toward the public. Anna Sabatova pushed an ethos of human rights. She brought in ideology, focused on minorities, and so on”.

In a statement, ‘Million Moments for Democracy’ argued that Krecek’s controversial nomination was only the tip of the iceberg and that the rule of law and system of checks and balances were under serious threat.

The Prague protest on Sunday, March 1, is scheduled to start at 4 pm with a march to Old Town Square, where the official demonstration will begin at 5 pm.

‘Milion Moments for Democracy’, a local organization headed by Mikulas Minar which has organized mass anti-government protests over the past year, also declared they’ll organize local demonstrations in all regional capitals in the next few months, starting in Plzen on February 25.

Main photo credit: Vit Simanek/CTK via AP

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