Conservative Czech firebrand Okamura blocks Czech pandemic law amendment with 6-hour speech

The pandemic law amendment would restrict fundamental rights and freedoms, warn the SPD and ANO opposition movements

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Czech News Agency
The chairman of the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), Tomio Okamura, delivers a speech in the Chamber of Deputies. (Tomio Okamura/Facebook)

On Tuesday, the head of the opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD), Tomio Okamura, launched an effort to obstruct an amendment to the controversial pandemic law in the Chamber of Deputies, which many conservative politicians view as a threat to civil liberties in the country. During the session, Okamura gave a six-hour speech in opposition to the amendment. In the end, the deputies did not reach an agreement.

Before Okamura continued with his speech, the parties of the ruling coalition decided during a break that the Chamber of Deputies’s session could continue overnight.

When Okamura took to the speaker stand again, he said that members of his movement would propose a discussion of their 21 drafts. Okamura himself decided to propose another ten points of discussion. He demanded, among other things, a debate “on the intolerable situation with the maladjusted individuals in the cities and municipalities of the Czech Republic,” which, according to him, the government refuses to deal with. During his speech, Okamura changed the title of the discussion four times, refusing to submit it in writing.

Similarly, he changed the title of the debate on the situation of low-income pensioners, repeating himself several times in his speech. On this topic, Okamura noted that the planned valorization of pensions is no thanks to the government but rather a legal obligation.

The SPD chairman also demanded a debate on the freezing of politicians’ salaries, increasing benefits for the disabled and tax rebates, and speaking about the Turów mine agreement that ended a long-running conflict with Poland.

Okamura said that his movement aims to prevent not only the adoption of the amendment to the pandemic law but also the introduction of mail-in voting in parliamentary and presidential elections.

The debate shouldn’t be time-limited

Okamura further rejected allegations from other politicians he was not sticking to the point of the talks, even though he spoke on a range of topics, for example, about shutting down sugar factories. He protested against limiting speaking time to a maximum of ten minutes per speaker in the debate on the pandemic law and demanded the Chamber of Deputies discusses the “silencing of political opponents.”

The head of the SPD accused the government coalition of an “arrogance of power” as it refuses to deal with rising prices and instead increases the price of food.

“The only thing you do is send customs officers to citizens who went shopping to Poland because of cheaper prices,” he said.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan called Okamura an unscrupulous man who wants revenge and is abusing his position for a political fight, and his movement should be classified as one that promotes “disinformation.”

The coalition wants to push through an amendment to the pandemic law in early March so that some Covid-19 restrictions can continue. If the Chamber of Deputies does not approve it, the Minister of Health Vlastimil Válek wants to ask the government to declare a state of emergency. According to Okamura, the government deceived the voters, and Válek should resign or be removed.

The Chamber of Deputies must discuss the amendment again since the  Senate rejected it by a narrow margin. According to the opposition SPD and ANO movements, the amendment is unnecessary and restricts fundamental rights and freedoms, while other EU countries relax coronavirus measures.

The previous approval of the pandemic law amendment in the Chamber of Deputies took more than 35 hours, mainly due to the SPD’s obstructions.

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