Czech voters turn to the far-right for answers to the energy crisis

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By Bryan Carter
Czech voters turn to the far-right for answers to the energy crisis
Copyright  euronews

The Czech Republic is facing one of the highest annual inflation rates in the European Union, with a 17 per cent increase in the cost of living, caused by the crisis with Moscow. It has revealed the country’s heavy reliance on Russian gas, as prices soar and consumers struggle to pay their bills. Growing poverty has fed into discontent among Czech voters, who are looking to the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD) for answers.

Czechs are suffering

Euronews reporter Bryan Carter visited Prague to meet some of the people suffering as a result of the rising cost of living.

Viera Dobrocka, an unemployed mother of a nine-month-old baby, was left with no option other than to move into social housing for single mothers after high food and energy costs meant she could no longer pay her bills.

Bryan Carter
Unable to afford the rising cost of living, Viera Dobrocka and her son Stefan had to move into a social housing for single mothersBryan Carter
I’ve lived in Prague for a long time. But now that the prices have increased so much, simply paying rent, groceries and basic things for the little one became unbearable for us. So we had to come live in this social house.
Viera
Czech mother

The nation’s elderly is also vulnerable. Dezider Galbavy, who lives on a pension of 500 euros per month, told Euronews that the situation is “outrageous” and that he is “scared” of temperatures dropping this winter.

I don't know how this will go on, but half of the republic won't be able to afford it. It's bad now already. People will heat with whatever they can. They will heat even with tires. That's how it will end.
Dezider Galbavy
Czech pensioner

With bills rising dramatically, people like Dezider will be forced to rely on burning wood and coal rather than turning on their heating, but even that is running out.

The impact on Czech business

Rising energy costs also have a knock-on effect on businesses, which could mean that many Czech workers lose their jobs.

Petr Novosad, Director of Harrachov Glassworks, said that his 300-year-old establishment relies heavily upon gas for its furnaces, so he is feeling the pinch.

Last year, the cost of gas for us represented about 10% of our total cost. But this year, the energy already takes more than 50% of the total costs of our products. So for example our consumption in August was almost the same as it was last year, but our gas bill is ten times higher.
Petr Novosad
Director of Harrachov Glassworks

He told Euronews that if this trend continues, he will have to cut the number of employees at the glassworks, which currently provides the paychecks for around a hundred families.

Bryan Carter
As many as 100 workers from the Harrachov glassworks are at risk of losing their jobs if the gas crisis continuesBryan Carter

The Czech Government’s answer

Increasing hardship since the beginning of September has led to thousands of Czechs protesting on the streets, calling for the government’s resignation, and heavily criticizing the European Union and NATO.

While many demand a gas deal with Russia, the government instead announced a series of economic measures in a televised address.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala outlined caps on energy prices for households, self-employed people, and small and medium-sized businesses, as well as providers of public services.

Political impact

Energy has dominated the political agenda, with the SPD tripling its number of local mandates nationwide after the municipal elections held at the end of September.

Bryan Carter
Tomio Okamura, the leader of the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD)Bryan Carter

Disillusionment with the current government, combined with a mistrust of the main opposition leader, Andrej Babiš, who is facing fraud charges, has created fertile ground for the SPD to gain popularity, as it has been campaigning for gas negotiations with Moscow.

The party’s leader, Tomio Okamura, has come under fire for his views on the European Union and multiculturalism, as well as his provocative marks about Muslims.

He claimed that he is not “xenophobic” as some would suggest, but that he opposes the European Union's stance on migration, saying that it results in an "inability to help people during a crisis".

Journalist • Isabella Jewell