Former PM Babis’s Campaign Rallies Meet With Protests From Opponents
Around 20 protesters attended a campaign rally by ANO leader and ex-Prime Minister Andrej Babis in Unhost, Central Bohemia today, watched by uniformed police. Though the protesters interrupted the rally with loud booing, no conflict occurred .
Police anti-conflict officers were present to monitor the rally, which started in the main square of Unhost at 9am, with several dozen supporters of Babis present.
When Babis began speaking, some protesters started booing and hooting, also displaying banners and placards showing, for example, a crossed-out portrait of the former PM.
Babis told his supporters to “ignore the people who have come here to disturb the meeting.”
The protesters were standing just a few metres from the caravan which Babis is using to tour the country, chanting slogans including “Things will be better without Babis”, paraphrasing his election slogan; some were also swearing and calling him names.
Around 20 journalists, photographers and cameramen were at the scene.
At the end of the one-hour meeting, the organisers observed a man with a bucket of tomatoes. Anti-conflict officers approached the man to talk to him, and no conflict occurred. As well as the protesters at the rally, some passing motorists were also sounding their car horns.
Babis was accompanied by other ANO politicians in Unhost, including former Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlicek and MP Jana Mrackova Vildumetzova.
Havlicek and local election leader for ANO Dana Doksanska also gave speeches at the rally, criticising the current government as well as the situation in the healthcare sector. Babis called on citizens to go to preventive medical check-ups, among other things.
Babis has been touring the Czech Republic in his caravan since the beginning of the summer. However, he denies this is part of his campaign for the presidential election to be held in early 2023, and claims he is touring the regions as the leader of ANO as part of the party’s campaign for the autumn Senate and local elections.
He said in late June that he would probably announce the decision on his presidential candidacy on 4 November. However, news servers Seznam zpravy and Denik N reported today that he may make his announcement on 28 October, Czech Independence Day, based on comments made at a rally in Zizice.
He also said that, rather than collecting signatures from citizens, he would rely on MPs’ signatures for his nomination. While he would need 50,000 citizens’ signatures, only 20 MPs’ signatures are needed to become a presidential candidate. Babis’s ANO party, now in opposition, has 72 representatives in the lower house.
Today, Babis has been meeting the public at various locations in the Central Bohemia and Usti regions, for the first time since rallies in South Bohemia last week when police officers attracted controversy and criticism for their handling of protesters.
The police were sharply criticised for an incident in Borovany, where plain-clothes police officers knelt on a schoolboy who took away Babis’s loudspeaker. In Cesky Krumlov, two plain-clothes police officers placed a female anti-Babis protester in an unmarked car and took her to a police station. The woman told the media that she had hit a man who was pushing her without being aware that he was a plain-clothes police officer.
Interior Minister Vit Rakusan (STAN) and Police President Martin Vondrasek said on Monday that if the police had to intervene at political meetings, this should primarily be done by clearly marked uniformed police officers.
South Bohemia police spokesman Jiri Matzner told CTK today, without elaborating, that the police were investigating a person allegedly carrying a weapon at one of Babis’s meetings in the region.