What to make of the protests in Prague?
Some 70,000 people gathered in Prague's central Wenceslas Square on Saturday to demonstrate against inflation, Covid vaccinations and letting more immigrants into the country, according to police figures. The demonstrators accused the government of being more concerned about Ukraine than its own people and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Petr Fiala's centre-right government.
Driven by dread
Hospodářské noviny analyses the demonstrators' motives:
“It's doubtful that 70,000 fanatical Putin supporters gathered on Wenceslas Square to support Great Russian imperialism in Ukraine. ... Most of the people there were afraid. Afraid that they won't be able to pay the electricity bills, that they won't be able to make ends meet, that they'll freeze in the winter. Afraid that the government will abandon them. There's nothing irrational about that. So far, the government hasn't acted in a way that reassures the threatened part of society that it won't be abandoned to its fate, as head of government Petr Fiala pompously puts it.”
A wake-up call for the governing parties
The liberal-conservative government in Prague should not be surprised by the size of the protest, Lidové noviny says:
“In the eyes of most people, the government is doing nothing. Unlike its populist predecessors and the left or right governments of all the surrounding countries. And the special budget of ten billion [koruna, roughly 408 million euros] it has earmarked this year for supporting households seems like a pittance compared to the much higher sums being provided for Ukrainian war refugees. Yes, this comparison is clearly demagogic, and these figures cannot be compared from a logical point of view. But in politics things never work based on pure logic and strict rationality.”
A dangerous spark
Adevărul is alarmed:
“What if the protests spread to other major European states? ... The free world is in a critical situation. Sure, it's not good to be Russia's captive in terms of energy supplies. But decoupling from gas and oil is not something that can be done so easily. And it takes time, while winter is knocking at the door. When will the cold set in, and how severe will it be? No one can predict that.”
This is just the beginning
The protests in Prague could portend an emotionally charged autumn, says Jutarnji list:
“We can conclude that a series of protests has begun in Prague that will define the autumn and probably also the winter in Europe. ... The largest French trade union, Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT), has announced a large-scale strike for 29 September, and Spanish trade unions have announced major protests for September. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned at the end of August of the threat of a new wave of radicalisation. ... Caught up in yet another serious crisis, the EU must prove that it is capable of protecting its citizens and maintaining social cohesion.”