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TOP 09, Christian Democrats to ignore Czech national holiday

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Prague, Oct 25 (CTK) – The Czech opposition TOP 09 party and the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) will not attend the award-giving ceremony at Prague Castle on the October 28 national holiday, their leaders told journalists yesterday.
President Milos Zeman is doing his utmost to make the holiday as undignified as last year when he decorated representatives of the Communist regime, TOP 09 leader Miroslav Kalousek said.
“In order to honour the legacy of October 28, we will lay flowers to the statue of Czechoslovak President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk at the Hradcanske namesti Square on Friday morning,” Kalousek said.
He said the party’s attitude was motivated not only by the latest scandal with the refusal to decorate Holocaust survivor Jiri Brady, a relative of Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL).
“The reason for the absence is broader,” Kalousek said, pointing out the outrage caused by the decoration for former Communist agriculture Miroslav Toman last year.
Kalousek said the president had the sovereign right to decide on whom to decorate.
“However, it is presumed in a free democratic country that the sovereign right will respect, not negate the developments of the country,” he added.
“This is exemplified by [last year’s] decoration for a deputy chairman of the Lubomir Strougal’s Communist government (Toman) . We believe that in this way, the national holiday was appropriated for one’s views, not for the celebrations of the state holiday of a free country,” Kalousek said.
“Zeman’s behaviour basically guarantees that this year’s celebration will be as controversial and undignified as last year’s. Since we do not want to put up with the situation, our participation is impossible,” Kalousek said, adding that Zeman was appropriating for himself “important symbols although they belong to all of us.”
Herman says Brady was withdrawn from the list of those to be decorated by Zeman because he himself met the Tibetan Dalai Lama earlier in October despite Zeman’s warning that he should not do so.
Zeman has denied the allegations.
“The KDU-CSL lawmakers will not attend the ceremony because it has been perverted into undignified politicking and the settling of personal accounts,” the party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek, said.
It would be reasonable if Brady were decorated on a different occasion as indicated by the Presidential Office, he added.
Belobradek proposed to Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka that he consider decorating Brady with the Karel Kramar Medal .
“The members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have decided freely not to go there. It is their personal decision,” Belobradek said.
The holiday marking the 1918 establishment of Czechoslovakia should unite, not divide society, he added.
“If the politicians do not come, it will be also a message to their voters on their relation to the national holiday on October 28,” Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said.
“When it comes to the Vladislav Hall [where the ceremony is held], we are not afraid of any rows of empty chairs. The interest is big. There will be relatives of the decorated persons. These are who matter,” Ovcacek said.
On the other hand, the Communist (KSCM) deputies have received the recommendation that they should not attend any alternative events on October 28 as this might divide society, chairman of the Communist deputy group Pavel Kovacik has said.
The Mayors and Independents (STAN) movement organises an alternative celebration of the national holiday on the Old Town Square in Prague.

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