(Bloomberg) A Czech anti-immigrant party accused financier George Soros of imposing “supranational governance” on the country, joining a surge of politicians calling for a crackdown on non-governmental organizations in ex-communist Europe.
Freedom and Direct Democracy, which holds more than a 10th of the 200 seats in parliament, said it will support steps limiting the influence of such entities in Czech politics and media, according to a statement on Tuesday. Known as SPD, it’s calling for the country to follow Britain out of the European Union and said it will emulate measures taken by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has based his April election campaign on attack ads against Hungarian-born Soros and passed Russian-style laws to stigmatize groups funded from abroad.
“The vehicle of this governance are nonprofit organizations with political and ideological programs and financial as well as personal links to George Soros’s organizational network,”
SPD, led by anti-Islamic leader Tomio Okamura, wrote in the statement.
“Their goal is to destroy national identity and natural cultural and social values, push positive discrimination and immigration in the interest of the global world order.”
The statement by SPD, a party allied to newly re-elected President Milos Zeman, underscores a shift in the political climate in the Czech Republic. Traditionally seen as a pro-Western safe haven for foreign investors, the country has moved more toward anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric, coinciding with a wave of opposition to the EU’s liberal, multi-cultural values in members Hungary, Poland, Romania that has emboldened political forces to dismantle democratic checks and balances.
Capping an anti-Muslim campaign that won him a second five-year term, Zeman praised Okamura for his support on Saturday as the SPD leader stood behind him when he gave his victory speech. Zeman has pushed for stronger ties with Russia, whose leader Vladimir Putin has also cracked down on foreign-funded NGOs, and China, which many western countries have criticized for human-rights abuses.
The president has also warned Muslim immigrants — a cohort almost non-existent in the Czech Republic — will seek to impose Shariah law, while Okamura has encouraged Czechs to harass Muslims by walking dogs and pigs in front of mosques and boycott kebab shops.
In Hungary, Orban has used taxpayer funds for a national mail-in survey and a billboard campaign and a “Stop Soros” legislative package that is purportedly aimed at curbing the influence of the philanthropist, a Jew who fled the country after World War II.
Soros has denounced the campaigns against him across eastern Europe. Having donated more than $400 million to his native country and hundreds of millions more across eastern Europe since the 1989 fall of communism, his main philanthropic focus is on protecting the rights of minorities, the poor and the underprivileged.
Article by Krystof Chamonikolas for Bloomberg
Featured image by Jason Alden