They are demanding the resignation of PM Andrej Babis, a business tycoon who is listed as an StB agent in its official archives. Babis has consistently denied cooperating with the StB knowingly, saying he has been wrongly identified in the documents.
Pensioners Miloslava and Pavel Šimáček took part in the mass protests 30 years ago. They came back on Saturday because they were opposed to Babis being PM.
Carrying home-made banners, they paused to listen to the national anthem playing from the sound system.
“I’m very unhappy about the fact that the Prime Minister is a former StB agent and Communist. He has no self reflection whatsoever,” Pavel Šimáček said. His wife Miloslava added: “Back then, 30 years ago, if someone told me this would the case, I wouldn’t have believed it. We knew everything won’t be ideal, but this is unacceptable.”
“We consider it unacceptable … for an StB agent to be the Prime Minister,” the petition said. “We are not going to pretend that it’s normal. We want Andrej Babis to step down!”
Babis, a Slovak-born millionaire, has admitted to meeting with StB agents in the 1980s, when he was a member of the Communist Party working for a foreign trade company — a cushy job that allowed him to travel abroad, a perk that was unthinkable for most Czechoslovaks at that time.
However, he has denied cooperating with the StB knowingly.
The historical files describes him as being worried his coworkers would find out about his collaboration, something he thought could hurt his career. But, according to the records, he signed up anyway, adopting the code name “Bures.”
While many in the Czech Republic disagree with Babis and want him gone, the PM has plenty of supporters too. His political party ANO won the European Parliament elections in May with 20% of the vote.
The protesters are now urging the fragmented opposition parties to come up with a plan to defeat Babis, and have pledged to keep protesting until their demands are met.
Their criticism goes way beyond Babis’ alleged past.
Babis has been accused of fraud related to EU subsidies received more than a decade ago by his former agricultural business empire Agrofert.
An investigation ended in the police proposing criminal charges against him. But this September, on the day of Babis’ 65th birthday, prosecutors put the case on hold and later decided to drop it all together. Babis has denied the accusations.
ANO has not responded to a request for comment.
The vast empire includes a large number of food producers, meaning Czech supermarkets are full of products made by companies that trace their ownership to the PM.
App developer Vytrhlík was curious about the scale of Babis’ business empire and devised a smartphone app called “Bez Andreje,” Czech for “Without Andrej.”
It allows people to scan the barcode of any product to check whether it was made by one of the Agrofert companies. It has been downloaded more than 250,000 times, Vytrhlík said.
“We don’t have many reasons to be optimistic, 30 years after the Velvet Revolution,” the organizers, who are mostly students, said in a statement. “How else shall we celebrate the anniversary than by raising our voices in defense of democracy?”