Protesters call for the demise of the demise of the Babiš government in June, 2019. via Raymond Johnston

Protesters to set ultimatum for Babiš over his conflict of interest at Prague demonstration on Saturday

Prague, Nov 11 (CTK) – The Million Moments NGO wants to use the Prague demonstration on Saturday to set an ultimatum for PM Andrej Babiš and ask him to either remove his conflict of interest, get rid of the Agrofert firm and sack the justice minister, or resign himself, its head Mikuláš Minář said today.

If Babiš fails to meet the demand, another wave of protests would burst out, said, Minář, whose Million Moments for Democracy group organised a series of mass demonstrations against Babis (ANO) and Justice Minister Marie Benešová (for ANO) this spring, and is also organising the upcoming one at 14:00 on November 16.

“The most serious reason for dissatisfaction is the continuing huge conflict of interest on the part of the prime minister. Instead of serving citizens, he seeks his own benefit. Andrej Babiš misuses his media power to gain and keep political power. Subsequently, he misuses political power for the benefit of his business. He even shamelessly asserts that he has no influence on the trust funds whose supervisory boards include his wife and close friends,” Minář said.

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In his previous capacity as finance minister (2014-17), Babiš transferred Agrofert, his giant chemical, agricultural, food and media holding, to two trust funds in order to meet the conflict of interest law. His critics say, nevertheless, that he continues influencing Agrofert and is the funds’ beneficiary.

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“That is why we will set an ultimatum for Andrej Babiš at [the demonstration at Prague’s] Letna plain. Either he will settle his conflict of interest by a certain deadline, get rid of Agrofert, including media, and have Marie Benesova dismissed as justice minister, or let him step down as prime minister. If not, another wave of even stronger and more creative protests will break out across the country,” Minář said.

He said that at the forthcoming rally, Million of Moments will clearly formulate its goal, which are the elementary principles of democracy, and launch a petition for people to support it on www.milionchvilek.cz.

Million Moments does not plan to become a political party, he added.

Million Moments deputy chairman Benjamin Roll said the demonstrators also plan to turn to the opposition parties and ask them to solve the problem of the opposition being excessively fragmented, which makes it and its supporters’ votes weak.

The organisers also want to present four reasons for further potential protests, which are [the government’s] effort to gain political control over the judiciary, for example by sacking Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman, or the effort to gain political control of public media.

Protests might also break out if Czechia is harmed by Babiš’s conflict of interests and loses EU subsidies as a result, or if President Milos Zeman granted abolition to Babiš in case the latter’s recently halted prosecution over a suspected EU subsidy were reopened, Roll said.

The speakers at the Saturday rally will include Charter 77 signatories Dana Nemcova and Bishop Vaclav Maly, as well as Jana Filipova, who recently sued Babiš over his comments on demonstrators.

The court ordered Babiš to apologise, but Babiš appealed the verdict, which thus has not taken effect as yet.

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On Saturday, the demonstration is to be joined by farmers arriving with their tractors.

Veronika Vendlova said, on behalf of Million Moments, that demonstrations are also being staged abroad this week, including in South Korea, Brussels, London and Paris.

“Forty-one venues are to join the event for now, which is twice as many as in June,” she said.

After the November 16 protest in Prague, rallies will also be held in Czech regions. Planned demonstrations have been reported by organisers in 136 towns so far, including the regional centres Brno, Plzen, Olomouc and Usti nad Labem.

The so far protests Million Moments has organised against Babiš and for the independence of Czech judiciary, peaked by the Prague demonstration in June, which was the largest since the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution rallies. The organisers say the demonstration was attended by 250,000 people, the T-Mobile operator spoke about 283,000 people and the police about 200,000.

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