AOn Saturday afternoon, a few hundred people, mostly young men, gathered in the Slovak capital Bratislava (Pressburg) for a demonstration. Their insults indicated that they were against Prime Minister Igor Matovic’s corona policy and demanded his resignation. The police, who were pelted with stones and bottles, used tear gas and water cannons. Some of the demonstrators appeared as football “ultras”, some as supporters of the right-wing extremist politician Marian Kotleba, who a week ago was sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment by a court in the first instance (not legally binding) for spreading hatred and extremism .
One and a half years ago, when the new corona virus was still out of the question, Kotleba publicly distributed checks for 1,488 euros to needy families. This supposedly purely social act carried the scent of extremism because the numbers 14 (for a racist slogan for “protecting the white race”) and 88 (for “Heil Hitler”) are relevant codes – and because the whole thing is on the anniversary of the Founding of Hitler’s Slovak satellite state in March 1939 was going on. The court considered it proven that the action was in truth about conveying these codes. Kotlebas LSNS (People’s Party of Our Slovakia) has 14 seats in the Slovak parliament; if his conviction becomes final, he loses his.
The Czechs were hit hardest
The fact that Kotleba’s supporters are now against the Corona restrictions could be seen as a political diversion. In any case, it is a topic that can obviously stir up aggression in a certain segment – especially in those countries of Central Europe that appeared as model students in the field of Corona in the summer. In any case, a few hundred football hooligans followed on Sunday in the neighboring Czech Republic, closely linked by history and language to Slovakia, with a demonstration that also escalated into violent clashes.
The Czechs have been hit hardest when it comes to Corona. The number of infections is increasing exponentially from week to week, on Friday the 10,000 mark was exceeded, and on Sunday there were also sad record highs for new infections and hospitalizations (although lower in absolute numbers, as is usual on weekends). The most prominent victim of infection was Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman, who was the first member of the government.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš assured on Sunday that they are not thinking of a complete “lockdown” now, but that the measures will take effect, which will initially be in force until the beginning of November. However, they are coming quite close to closing public life: restaurants and pubs, schools and sports facilities have been closed, and gatherings of more than six people have been banned. The army is building a field hospital with up to 500 beds near Prague. In a televised address, President Miloš Zeman called on the population not to be seduced by people like “dentists, cardiac surgeons or pop singers” who attract media attention with requests to remove masks.
Test compulsory for Slovak citizens?
Similar rigorous measures have also been taken in Slovakia, including a mask requirement in all towns and cities, special shopping hours in the morning for old people. After all, younger students are still being taught in schools. Now Matovic has gone public with a comprehensive test project: All 5.5 million residents of the country are to be tested for corona infection. According to the procedure for elections, the tests – free of charge for citizens – should be carried out on two dates before All Saints’ Day.
It has not yet been decided whether the citizens would be obliged to do so, said Matovic. If so, the government would have to pass a corresponding law. However, the heterogeneous center-right coalition, which has only ruled since the spring, is arguing about the corona policy. The head of the Party for Freedom and Solidarity, Richard Sulík, finds the measures too drastic. Matovic has accused him of behaving like the right-wing extremist Kotleba.