Politicians resort to vulgar language

Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek and fellow member of parliament Josef Hojdar, photo: CTK

Czech politicians have been competing for attention in an exchange of bitter insults. But should they be trying harder to mind their language? Kate Barrette has more on this dip into dirty words among Czech politicians.

Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek and fellow member of parliament Josef Hojdar, photo: CTK
A bitter conflict over an environmental emissions law has led to one further pollution concerns, but a rather unexpected one - the pollution of language.

Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek and fellow member of parliament Josef Hojdar have been arguing very publicly and bluntly on the issue, and their row has led some to say that Czech political dialogue is in need of a serious clean up.

According to Hojdar, the scandal began when Ambrozek sent a text message to the bosses of a large energy company. In the message, Ambrozek criticized members of the economic committee, which Mr Hojdar leads, calling them "dickheads". He also wrote that if the law didn't come into effect, he (and I quote) "wouldn't give a shit."

Hojdar then responded publicly by comparing Ambrozek to members of the bovine species, saying he was damaging the country.

Tomas Teplik of the Economic Committee said he was surprised that the minister, who is, after all, a Christian Democrat, used these words:

"I was surprised the minister would use these terms because I wouldn't expect a member of a Catholic conservative party to use words like this. I think the minister should apologise and take political responsibility for this."

The head of the Christian democratic party Miroslav Kalousek, photo: CTK
The head of the Christian democratic party Miroslav Kalousek also condemned the use of dirty language, saying that these words should not be part of the political culture and do not suit politicians.

Some politicians and commentators attribute it to the nervousness of the political parties in the run-up to the Senate and regional elections.

But political scientist Jan Bures says that Czech politicians' just want to stand out.

"I think it's an unfortunate kind of general feature of Czech politics after the fall of Communism. It proves that politicians often do not want to solve serious problems of Czech society, but they substitute this with simple ideological phrases and clichés, and sometimes also by vulgar terms by which they want to show their own personalities."

Psychologist Ilona Gillernova assesses the impact of such political dramas:

"Whether they want to or not these people are setting models of behaviour. Young people choose from different role models. If they are surrounded by other role models, it's no problem to explain to them that this is no way to behave. At home, in private it might be okay, but not in a public role. It's important not to advocate this kind of behaviour."

This is not the first time strong words have been thrown around in Czech politics. The former prime minister Milos Zeman was known for using a few of them. For example, he described members of our own profession - journalists - as excrement. Another well known exchange was the famous Wagner slap, when Social Democrat deputy Josef Wagner publicly slapped a colleague in his own party. More recently European Parliament deputy Richard Falbr told one of his colleagues that she was a bitch.

But most observers agree that these strong words were used much more in the 1990s, at the time when the far right Republican Party was still in parliament. Their departure has clearly left a few dirty stains.