Lowest number of women in Czech post-communist history to run for parliament

"Equal opportunities" is one of the buzzwords of the day. The Czech government has a special council devoted to the issue. The former Czech prime minister, EU commissioner Vladimir Spidla, has equal opportunities on his agenda. But still, the participation of men and women in Czech politics is far from equal.

Only some 15 percent of Czech MPs are women and there are just two women ministers in the 17-member cabinet. The situation is unlikely to change after this year's parliamentary elections because - as the existing candidate lists suggest - the lowest number of women since the fall of communism will be running for seats in the lower house. Pavla Horakova reports.

Recent months have seen several women elected to top posts around the world, but in the Czech Republic the trend seems to be going just the other way. This year's elections are expected to produce the fewest women MPs in this country's post-communist history. Alena Kralikova from Gender Studies says the situation is a result of several factors.

"I would say that there is not a very big willingness on the part of the politicians to have more women on the candidate lists and in positions from which women could be elected. Another thing is that both men and women have become increasingly disillusioned with politics based on what they have seen happening on the political scene in recent months. And I think that there is a general lack of awareness among the public. I would expect the public to be more demanding, to demand from the politicians to really have a more equal participation of women and men."

According to Alena Kralikova, the parties with the highest numbers of women on their ballots are the Greens and the European Democrats - which according to latest polls - would not even make it into parliament. The candidate lists of the major parties are far from balanced.

"Definitely, there is a lack of women in every party. Even the Social Democrats who 'boast' of supporting women in politics and equal opportunities as such actually have very few women on their candidate list. The Civic Democrats are 'well-known' for not having many women, the same applies for the Christian Democrats. The Communists are the party that has the highest percentage of women in parliament. Their candidate list is a bit more equal but definitely, there are not 50 percent of women on their candidate list."

The Gender Studies organisation is trying to remind voters that they do have a chance to influence things. Under the Czech voting system you can tick individual candidates within the party you choose, which means that women candidates can win preferential votes.

And just what is it that women bring into politics? - a question for Alena Kralikova of Gender Studies.

"It's a very difficult question. I usually like to say that they don't bring anything new - but they bring their view and their representation of women's view of society, economy, culture etc. But they definitely represent 50 percent of the society, of the citizens. So they are necessary there."