As Angela Merkel becomes German chancellor, what chance a Czech woman premier?

Angela Merkel, photo: CTK

Angela Merkel has just made history as the first woman to ever become German Chancellor. The neighbouring Czech Republic has never had a female leader, and there are few signs there could be one soon. In fact, as preparations begin for general elections next year, some are afraid the number of women in Czech high politics could actually decrease. Radio Prague's Ian Willoughby reports.

Angela Merkel,  photo: CTK
Angela Merkel was sworn in as new German chancellor on Tuesday. She grew up under communism in the former East Germany and is the country's first ever female leader.

The Czech minister of social affairs, Zdenek Skromach, says he can imagine a Czech woman becoming premier some day.

"I think it would be good if the Czech Republic had its own female prime minister. I think it will happen in the foreseeable future and that she will be a member of our Social Democrats."

But on the other side of the house, Vlastimil Tlusty of the Civic Democrats is a bit less optimistic.

"I would like to see more women in this parliament but unfortunately you can see that the number is slowly going down. Only my party, the Civic Democrats, still has an important part of women in politics...In other parties the number is going down."

But as Czech political parties draw up lists of candidates ahead of elections next summer, most parties - including Mr Tlusty's - say they are having trouble finding suitable female candidates.

As it is, there are already few women in high politics: 17 percent of lower house deputies are female, and just two cabinet ministers. Zdenka Hajna of the Czech Union of Women believes women are being shut out, and should fight back.

"It's basically too late now because the candidate lists are already being drawn up, and there are few women to vote for. But what we can do is to activate women and encourage them to support one another, to increase co-operation between women's groups...And in the long term I'm for positive measures, and a quota system."

Political analyst Vladimira Dvorakova says many Czech women simply don't want to go into a political arena in which language is often vulgar and insults personal. And she is against the idea of positive discrimination.

"I don't like quotas to tell the truth, because in some sense I would prefer a very smart man to a stupid woman. And quotas cannot do that. On the other hand when I go to vote I look at whether there is a woman in a place where it's possible to be elected.

"If there were a message to political parties that not having women in places that could be elected means we would not vote for this party they would change their behaviour. We do not need any quota for that."

A rational approach to voting perhaps, but likely to be slow to have an impact on male-dominated Czech politics. Those hoping for a Czech Angela Merkel shouldn't hold their breaths.