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The Czech govt has fallen: a victory for democracy, disarmament and nonviolence

Prague, March 25, 2009

Yesterday the government of conservative Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, was dismissed by Parliament with a motion presented by the Social-Democratic opposition. This is a great victory for the Non-violent Movement against the bases in the Czech Republic that saw the real possibility to oppose the installation of US military radar bases.

The Czech government is formed by the ODS, a right-wing party with a relative majority, and a small group of Christian democrats and Greens.

There are many reasons behind this loss: unpopular health system policies, as well as scepticism towards the European Union. The key element; however, was the conflict created in Czech society regarding the installation of the US “Star Wars” radar base.

70% of the Czech population is against the presence of foreign troops on their territory. The popular protest which lasted more than two years, created trouble for the government on several occasions and strengthened the opposition parties. Regional elections which took place last autumn, witnessed the fall of the majority parties.

The great work of awareness-raising, mobilization and information dissemination we carried out in these years,” stated Jan Tamas, President of the Czech Humanist Party and leader of the radar base protest, “allowed the opposition parties to understand the danger of the “Star Wars” project and the Greens to realize their politics was very distant from that of other European Green Parties.

As a matter of fact, the opposition of two Green Party members who distanced themselves from their party’s pro-military stance was the major cause of the fall of the government.

The installation of a US military base was one of the most heartfelt issues in the Czech Republic in the last few years. The hunger strike of Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in May 2008 strongly moved the population. Since then, a chain hunger strike is still taking place in the country where different personalities fasts for one day. Personalities include scientists, academics, actors, directors, sportspeople, parliament members of different parties, as well as the Vice President of the Parliament. A widespread league of mayors against the radar was also formed.

Maybe the international mass media will present the fall of the Czech government as the result of usual political tricks,” said Jan Tamas, “this is also true. The economic crisis is an important issue. But the government’s fall especially represents a victory for democracy, disarmament and the non-violent struggle. Without our protest, the government would never have fallen. Our people do not want foreign troops on their territory, the US will be forced to review their plans. It’s a victory of people not of politicians.

Czech activists would like their example to be followed in other countries involved in the Star Wars project: Italy, Great Britain, Japan and India. According to them, a widespread opposition against Star Wars must be formed in favour of nuclear disarmament! The building of a missile shield in India could increase tensions with Pakistan and both countries have a nuclear arsenal.

Premier Topolanek, interviewed by the Newspaper Novinky, following the lack of confidence expressed in his government, reiterated the certainty that the future government will follow the path of ratifying the treaty with the US. Regarding this, Jan expressed his doubts, “after pressures generated by the hunger strike, the social democratic party was forced to take a clear stand in our favour. This will make it more difficult for them to change their minds on the radar issue.

Gerardo Femina
Europe for Peace