The World Today for September 15, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

The Tricky Dance

CZECH REPUBLIC

“Medieval,” a new movie celebrating the military exploits of Czech national hero Jan Zizka, depicts peasants angry over rising living costs and other indignities, Variety wrote. Like any historical film, it is, in a sense, a commentary on today. The Czech people right now, coincidentally, are very angry, these days over rising living costs and other perceived abuses.

That was on display when 70,000 protesters recently converged on Wenceslas Square in Prague, the very same place where crowds helped end communism in the late 1980s in the cosmopolitan Central European country, Deutsche Welle wrote. Marchers, interestingly, were from both the far-right and far-left portions of the country’s political spectrum.

Organizing under the banner of “Czech Republic First,” they wanted their country to be neutral in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and negotiate their own energy contracts to circumvent Western efforts to shun Russian energy imports.

The protests came as the center-right government of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence based on the opposition’s claims that Fiala and his Civic Democratic Party haven’t dealt with rising energy costs well, the Guardian reported. Those increasing prices have fueled an inflation rate of 18 percent, one of the highest in the European Union.

Fiala said the demonstrators were pro-Russian and didn’t have the best interests of the Czech Republic at heart. He added that Russian propaganda might have stoked their fears and anger, Euractiv wrote.

“It is in our country’s broader interest to finally halt Russian imperialism,” said Fiala, a former politics professor, during a recent address to Czech diplomats covered by Radio Prague International, a state-owned broadcaster. “We must now ensure that Russia stops blackmailing its neighbors and that it is not the Kremlin that dictates the conditions for peace and the rules in international relations.”

He was planning on price caps and windfall taxes on energy companies who were making record profits from the spike in energy prices resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially in Europe where governments have sought to reduce their dependence on Russian energy, added Reuters.

Such protests are part of many activities now bubbling in the republic before voters go to the polls starting on Sept. 23 to vote for a new Senate and local officials, bne Intellinews wrote. Andrej Babis, former prime minister and leader of the populist ANO political party, for example, is using the upcoming election as a chance to campaign for the presidency in elections in the fall. Meanwhile, he’s currently on trial for fraud: He is accused of illegally using the subsidy to build a conference center near Prague before he formed his ANO party in 2011, Al Jazeera reported.

Fiala might lose power after the upcoming elections, though he won’t necessarily lose his job. That might be enough for him to keep his country out of Russia’s orbit while still retaining its democracy.

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