Protesters bring Becherovka, boxers, and an inflatable raft to Prague Castle

Hundreds attended a Sunday demonstration at Prague Castle to bid farewell to Miloš Zeman and highlight the importance of the presidential election. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 09.01.2023 00:00:00 (updated on 11.01.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague, Jan 8 (ČTK) - Hundreds of people gathered in the second courtyard of Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech president, Sunday afternoon to symbolically bid farewell to what protest organizers described as an era of arrogance and contempt for people, embodied by outgoing President Miloš Zeman.

Protest organizers Million Moments for Democracy dubbed the protest, held a few days before the first round of the Czech presidential election, "We Will Complete the Change: a Democrat to the Castle." They closed the 90-minute demonstration by singing the Czech national anthem.

Participants in the demonstration filled a significant part of the Castle's second courtyard, according to a ČTK reporter on the scene.

Prague police estimated the attendance at several hundred people. Others watched the event via a large screen in Hradčany square outside of the Castle. Some 50 police officers monitored activity in the square but no interventions were necessary.

Protesters called for the presidential office to uphold democratic values, openness, courage, sincerity, and humanity as well as a pro-Western course for the Czech Republic from the new president, according to organizers.

Some people carried banners reading "Farewell, Zeman” or expressing support for presidential candidates including retired general Petr Pavel and senator Pavel Fischer.

A box with items symbolizing Zeman's presidency (a bottle of Becherovka, an inflatable boat, and red boxer shorts, which referred to a 2015 prank in which artists from the Ztohoven collective replaced the presidential flag with red boxer shorts) was presented at the event.

At the end of the event, representatives from the Million Moments group symbolically threw the objects into a garbage can in Hradčany square.

The gathering kicked off with a slam poetry performance, followed by film director Václav Marhoul reading from Zeman's book and songwriter and dissident Jaroslav Hutka performing. Both men are supporters of presidential candidate Pavel.

Speakers addressed the crowd from a stepladder since the organizers were banned from bringing a platform to the courtyard due to security checks at the Castle entrances.

Supporters of candidates Pavel and economist Danuše Nerudová, doctor Tomás Sebek, and moderator and comedian Adéla Elbel spoke at the end of the rally. They read the candidate's CVs in response to the ad for the post of the president that Million Moments group previously released.

The former prime minister and ANO chairman Andrej Babiš, who is also running for president, would not bring any change, group spokeswoman Hana Strašáková said, pointing out that Babiš is charged in a suspected subsidy fraud case [the court acquitted the former PM on Monday morning].

On Thursday, Million Moments announced that the Prague Castle Administration had recommended they move the Sunday rally elsewhere since the historical seat of Czech kings and presidents was not a public space. The group countered that a decision by the Prague Metropolitan Court declared that Castle courtyards are a public spaces where people can gather.

In reaction to the Castle administration's statement that Prague Castle is the most visited tourist destination, the group called on its supporters to head to the Castle dressed like tourists with cameras, maps, and snacks.

On Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13-14, voters in Czechia will elect the new head of state from nine candidates. The expected second round of two finalists will be held two weeks later.

Zeman's successor will assume office in early March.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more