Friday, 18 April 2014

Mayors, teachers remove Klaus's portraits in protest of amnesty

8 January 2013

Zlin, South Moravia, Jan 7 (CTK) - More and more mayors all over the Czech Republic have followed the example of their counterparts from the Zlin region and removed President Vaclav Klaus's portrait from their offices in protest against the amnesty he declared on New Year, Michal Spendlik told CTK Monday.

Spendlik, mayor of the Zelechovice village and one of the step's initiators, said more than a hundred mayors joined the protest by the noon Monday, in addition to school head teachers who have the pictures of Klaus removed from classrooms.

The Presidential Office reacted saying head teachers should protect children from displays of cheap political struggle.

"If there are really head teachers, who have succumbed to the media hysteria of some opposition politicians and various media and who are even taking the pictures of the head of state down from classrooms' walls, it is appropriate to ask them to protect the children, for whose upbringing they are co-responsible, from displays of cheap political struggle," Klaus's spokesman Radim Ochvat told CTK.

The words about "cheap political struggle" were dismissed by Petr Gazdik, head of the junior ruling TOP 09 deputies' group who also heads the allied Mayors and Independents' Movement (STAN).

Mayors feel no need to struggle against someone who is leaving his office in a few weeks, Gazdik said, alluding to March 7 as the date when Klaus's second and last possible presidential mandate expires.

"The situation is worse. They [mayors] are simply fed up with the president's latest excesses," Gazdik said.

"People are turning to us spontaneously. Since the amnesty was declared, they have asked us why it happened and whether we can do something about it. Our chances are limited, that is why we've decided to protest in this way at least," Spendlik said, referring to the taking down of Klaus's portraits.

The goal of the campaign, launched on Friday, was to win support of the largest possible number of mayors, Spendlik said.

He said in Klaus's amnesty he minds mainly the article that halts the prosecution of suspected intentional crimes, including property ones, and pardons those convicted of such crimes.

"We'd be able to understand the pardoning of unintentional crime perpetrators, so that they are given a new chance. But this [Klaus amnesty's wording] looks like a step thoroughly planned in advance," Spendlik said.

According to Klaus, the amnesty was a good step, which will become evident after some time.

Josef Zicha, mayor of Vysoke Pole, a village in the Zlin region, too, has removed Klaus's portrait from his office.

"The president's portrait should contribute to an office's dignified atmosphere. The president should also be an example for kids that learn moral and ethical principles at school. By granting a broad-minded amnesty also to large-scale thieves, fraudsters and corrupt people, Vaclav Klaus has lost the moral right to be the president of decent and honest people," Zicha said.

The protest has also been joined by elementary schools and kindergartens.

"We've been teaching certain moral principles to children. Schools have been faced with austerity measures for several years. If large-scale thefts of state property are tolerated, it [the damage] is paid by us. The [stolen] money [if returned by the convicts] could have been spent on education," the Zelechovice elementary school head teacher Milan Cholek told journalists.

He said no decree on whether the president's portrait must decorate classrooms exists.

Cholek said he would not involve children in the school management's protest, but the children themselves are asking the school staff about the amnesty.

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