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Albertov university area of the Czech capital is packed as members of academia indirectly criticize politicians on 17 November

18.11.2016 14:24
Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Pithart spoke at Albertov on 17 November 2016. (PHOTO:  Czech Television)
Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Pithart spoke at Albertov on 17 November 2016. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

Yesterday numerous speakers at an event in the Albertov university area of Prague thanked students for their involvement in the political events of 17 November 1989 and criticized today's politicians, with Czech President Miloš Zeman and Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) reaping a great deal of indirect criticism. Petr Pithart, a former educator and former Prime Minister, said people must not allow themselves to be divided by categorizations or alleged affiliations with artificially-created groups, and that they should not vote for corporations instead of political parties during the elections.

Zeman frequently uses the term "Prague café" to refer to intellectuals whose voices he alleges are disconnected from what is actually bothering people in the Czech Republic. Other speakers at the event said there is no difference between those who frequent a "Prague café" or a rural pub.

Pithart said he believes Czechs have always been able to talk to each other across such imaginary group lines and will continue to do so. "I don't want to say that the next elections will be the most important ones ever here - that's what we say about every election - but I actually do believe it in this case. Next autumn we will be able to choose, in addition to the normal political parties, whether to cast our vote for a corporation. In fact, we will be able to vote for a family business, one that continues to prosper. I do believe that in time we will realize that any corporation also always has a personnel department where they keep all the forms for firing people. That's what a corporation is. A firm is different from a political party in that you actually do not get to vote when you are part of it," he declared in a reference to the ANO political movement, which Babiš chairs.

Pithart also said he was not satisfied by Czech politicians' assurances that the Czech Republic is still a part of Western structures. "Before we know it we could find ourselves in the embrace of partners from the East, an embrace that we were recently told is strategic and might well stabilize the dead weight of this society," he said, referring to the recent pro-China declaration by the Czech Republic's top four constitutional officials.

The former PM received more than one big round of applause from the packed Albertov area in response to his words. "Let's not be fooled, let's find out which political party or which politicians and influential people around them have economic and trade relations with China from which they financially benefit," Pithart said.

During the main opening segment of the celebrations at Albertov, several rectors of public universities also made appearances who had earlier laid wreaths at the memorial plaque to the events of 1989, including the Rector of Masaryk University, Mikuláš Bek, who said that in addition to left-wing and right-wing Governments alternating throughout Czech history, periods during which either authoritarian or liberal notions about how to lead society have also alternated. Bek said that he believes the only liberal periods in Czech history have been the 20 years of the First Czechoslovak Republic and the first 20 years after 1989.

"In recent years, under pressure from the authoritarian tendencies, the liberal tendencies are obviously eroding, and it doesn't matter whether they are masked as managerial notions about how to run a state, or as fear of foreigners and immigrants, or if they don't even bother to mask themselves at all, like the MPs' bill to reintroduce the crime of insulting his Majesty the Emperor," Bek said, referencing a recent proposal to criminalize "defamation" of the President. Students at Albertov also published a manifesto today espousing the values of liberal democracy and removing barriers between people.

Several rectors also joined the manifesto, reciprocating the students' support for their appearances at the alternative celebrations of the founding of an independent Czechoslovakia on 28 October of this year. Albertov has been the traditional location for university students to commemorate the events of 17 November, both the massacre of students by the Nazis in 1939 and the communist regime's repression of students in 1989.

Last year that changed when students were not permitted to access Albertov because an assembly being held there by the "Bloc against Islam" which was being attended by Czech President Zeman. This year Charles University was the first entity to announce an event at Albertov to local authorities.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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17 November, demokracie, Demonstrace, Diskriminace



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