30 years after the velvet revolution, the Czechs are back on the streets
Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend anti-government demonstrations across the country on Saturday, one day before the anniversary, when a non-violent student-led demonstration encouraged the nation to confront communism.
They want the resignation of Prime Minister Andrei Babish, a business tycoon who has been listed as a StB agent in his official archives. Babis consistently refused to cooperate with StB deliberately, saying that he had been misidentified in the documents.
Martin Vytrhlík, an application developer living in Prague, will be one of the demonstrators.
"Significantly, 30 years ago people protested because they wanted to get rid of communism, and now the same people can see that a former STB agent and a former member of the Communist Party is in power ̵
1; of course  The protest organizers, a group called the Million Moments for Democracy, have coordinated some of the biggest demonstrations since 1989 over the past few months. More than 432,000 people have also signed their petition calling for Babis to resign.
"We consider it unacceptable … a StB agent to be Prime Minister," the petition says. "We will not pretend to be normal. We want Andrei Babis to retire!"
Babis, a Slovak-born millionaire, admitted to meeting with STB agents in the 1980s when he was a member of the Communist Party working for a foreign trade company – a cumbersome job that allowed him to travel to abroad, a bonus that was unthinkable to most Czechs at the time.
However, he deliberately denied working with STB.
According to official files kept by the Institute for the Memory of the Slovak People, Babisch agreed to become an associate during an hour and a half long meeting with StB staff at a wine bar in Bratislava in November 1982.
Historical records describe him as worried that his colleagues would find out about his collaboration, something he thinks could hurt his career. But, according to the records, he signed up anyway, accepting the code name Buresh.
Babis fought a fierce battle to remove his name from the files, an offer that was finally rejected by the Slovak Constitutional Court last year. The institute presented 12 separate files signed by about 40 former STB officers as evidence against Babish.
While many in the Czech Republic disagree with Babis and want him, the prime minister has enough supporters too. His political party ANO won the European Parliament elections in May with 20% of the vote.
In the last parliamentary elections in 2017, the group secured almost 30% of the vote, much more than the second largest UDF party, which received just over 11%. His populist policy includes a clear rejection of the EU's proposal for a new immigration quota, which will split refugees between Member States. He was among four leaders who rejected Europe's carbon reduction proposal in June.
Protesters now call for the fragmented opposition parties will come up with a plan to defeat Babisch and promise to continue protesting until their demands are met.
Their criticism goes beyond Babis's supposed past.
"The justice system and the public media are in danger, and the president, ignoring the constitution, promises, if need be, a presidential pardon for the prime minister. who has run into a huge conflict of interest, "they said in a statement on the website.
Babish is accused of fraud related to EU subsidies received more than a decade ago by their former empire for agro-business.
An investigation has been completed with the police, which has brought criminal charges against him. But this September, on Babysh's 65th birthday, prosecutors put the case in custody and later decided to suspend it. Babis denied the allegations.
ANO did not respond to a request for comment.
The European Union is also investigating Babis for a potential conflict of interest. Babis transferred ownership of Agrofert into trust funds before taking office, and the EU is investigating whether it is still profiting from business.
The vast empire includes a large number of food producers, meaning that Czech supermarkets are full of products made by companies that track their property to the premier.
App developer Vytrhlík was interested in the scale of the Babis business empire and created a smartphone app called "Bez Andreje", Czech for "Without Andrei".
It allows people to scan the barcode of any product to see if it has been made by one of Agroffert's companies. It has been downloaded more than 250,000 times, Vitrhlik said.
Saturday's protest organizers are hoping for large crowds.
"We don't have much reason to be optimistic, 30 years after the velvet revolution," the organizers, who are mostly students, said in a statement. "How else would we celebrate the anniversary than raise our voice in defense of democracy?"