Do MPs' 'bawdy' comments target a 'loutish' electorate?

28-11-2003

They were comments made readily for the Czech tabloid Blesk under the guise of light humour, comments made by several Czech MPs reflecting on the appearance of Petra Buzkova, the country's Education Minister. Ms Buzkova recently underwent surgery for breast-reduction for health reasons - but she could hardly have expected sniggering remarks from her own colleagues like "She's lost her two biggest assets" and "A good bra can do wonders". Such cat-calls might surprise few in a backroom pub, but in the corridors of parliament? Jan Velinger has more.

Stanislav Gross, Petra Buzkova, Miroslav Kostelka, Photo: CTKStanislav Gross, Petra Buzkova, Miroslav Kostelka, Photo: CTK Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has expressed anger over comments made by Czech MPs in the Czech media, comments made on Wednesday that made many cringe on Petra Buzkova's behalf. Speaking to the daily Blesk concerning Mrs. Buzkova's appearance Social Democrat Michal Kraus said "I have big hands so I prefer larger ones". Prime Minister Spidla called the comments "vulgar" and "unacceptable", stressing that all should apologise. At least one MP already has. However, the prime minister says he may call all of those involved to apologise officially. Mrs Buzkova has herself refused to dignify the incidents with a response.

If she has declined to comment, the incidents still have spurred questions over appropriate behaviour in parliament as well as debate over male attitudes towards women in the Czech Republic. Alena Kralikova is the education director at Prague's Centre for Gender Studies; like many she was disturbed by what she heard from the MPs.

"Well I see it as utter sexism from the point of view of the MPs and I think that this is really something that is not worth the MPs in the Czech Republic. I would have never guessed that MPs would dare to comment Mrs Buzkova's physical appearance."

At least one of the deputies who made derogatory comments has said it's his right to make those kinds of comments, while others have suggested that the whole incident has been blown out of proportion, that actually the comments were 'light-hearted jokes', not meant to be taken seriously.

Petra Buzkova, photo: CTKPetra Buzkova, photo: CTK "Well yes but if they give their ideas to newspapers, then I think they do mean it seriously. Moreover, if they are MPs they should really be thinking first what they are talking about, and not commenting later on that it was a joke."

Independent commentator Vaclav Pinkava takes a somewhat different angle, suggesting it's not sufficient to blame politicians alone. Politicians, he says, are just a reflection of broader society.

"To be honest I think the politicians are saying things that they expect to score points with their 'loutish' electorate, you know, it's the pub-crawling electorate that they're speaking to when they make those remarks. And they expect to do better in the opinion polls, as it were, by behaving like that, because that is the nature of the electorate they represent or so they think. You know, you don't have to go that far back to remember some of the outbursts of the former prime minister and how much better his party was doing in the opinion polls when he was prime minister than the present - rather decent - Mr Spidla."

So, did the MPs really try and target a loutish electorate? In this case it seems a fair bet. Considering the language used it appears that at least some MPs and 'pub crawlers' have found a common tongue.

28-11-2003