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Czech Interior Minister says migrants are "not an issue" in the Czech Republic

27.5.2016 7:41
Milan Chovanec, Czech Interior Minister, on an anti-immigrant demonstration held in Prague in 2015:
Milan Chovanec, Czech Interior Minister, on an anti-immigrant demonstration held in Prague in 2015: "Gallows have no place in a democracy, the police, as an organ of a democratic state, must be aware of that." (Collage: Romea.cz)

Czech voters are mainly interested in parties that address the full spectrum of political issues, not in those that are narrowly focused just on the topic of migration, for example. That is the assessment of Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), who made his remarks during a discussion about democracy.

Chovanec bases that assessment on the fact that narrowly-focused parties have not exceeded single digits in public opinion polls for quite some time. "All the parties that have exclusively focused on the migration issue are on the edge of scoring just one, two, or three percent of voter preferences. I believe Czechs want parties that address the entire spectrum of their lives," he said.

The Interior Minister believes migration is not a strong topic for any party in the country. "At a time when there is a total of about 130 migrants in detention facilities in the Czech Republic, this is not an issue at the current time," he said.

Chovanec said the recent outcome of the Austrian presidential elections was a big moment. During last weekend's second round of voting, Norbert Hofer, the candidate for the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria, was narrowly defeated.

Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen defeated Hofer by several tens of thousands of votes. "Whoever believes this has ended because the more acceptable candidate has been elected is naive, though - the other half of the electorate will not disappear by waving a magic wand," the Czech Interior Minister said.

Chovanec also said gpvernments being open about information can especially support democracy and freedom. "It is necessary to give people answers to their questions, to flexibly respond to disinformation and to these peculiar websites that are tendentiously disseminating propaganda," he said.

Extremism and propaganda striving to weaken faith in democratic institutions and the state cannot be stopped through repression alone, the Interior Minister said. That is the role of the democratic parties, the entire political scene, and the state, he believes.

Czech MP Helena Langšádlová (TOP 09), vice-chair of the lower house's Committee on the EU, has called for vigilance because support is growing for right-wing radical parties in Western Europe as well. "I would like both left-wing and right-wing democratic parties to be seated in the Chamber of Deputies. We must also be generally cautious when it comes to these disinformation campaigns," she said.

Langšádlová said that while such campaigns can come from various parties, currently they are coming from Russia in particular. A recent study by Political Capital, a think tank in Hungary, has documented the Kremlin connections of the Hungarian far-right and its use of online communications to spread propaganda. 

agw, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Extremism, Migrace, Milan Chovanec, refugee



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