Babis's rampant corruption sign of a political system in turmoil
In the largest ever anti-government demonstration since the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia 30 years ago, some 120,000 Czechs came out into the streets in Prague last week to demonstrate against the Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Babis is the Czech Republic’s second-richest person and the owner of Agrofert, a gigantic industrial concern that has an almost total monopoly over Czech food processing industry and agriculture.
This was the fourth demonstration against the prime minister in the past few weeks. Each subsequent demonstration was larger than the previous one. The next demonstration is scheduled on June 23 at the Letná plain, where the largest demonstrations that toppled the communist regime at the end of 1989 took place.
It is perhaps a sign of the times that the initiative has been organized on social networks. At the beginning of the protests, a group of students set up the Facebook page A Million Moments for Democracy. The page and group, headed by student Mikulas Minar, quickly became remarkably popular.
People started supporting the protests in large numbers, especially when a preliminary audit of Babis’ financial activities, produced by the European Union, indicated that Babis is suffering from a conflict of interest and has possibly committed financial fraud. As a top government official, Babis appears to instruct the structures of the state to provide E.U. and government subsidies for his vast business empire.
In April, the Czech police recommended starting criminal proceedings against Babis and his cronies because of his alleged criminal activities. Babis reacted by removing the serving Justice Secretary and replacing him by his ally, triggering the large demonstrations. Many Czechs are worried that Babis is now corrupting the Czech judiciary the same way it is being destroyed by authoritarians in Hungary and Poland.
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