Polls suggest Czechs want more women in politics

Photo: CTK

On Tuesday, President Vaclav Klaus appointed the second government of Mirek Topolanek, which has yet to ask for a confidence vote in the lower house of parliament. One of the changes compared to his previous cabinet is that the number of women ministers has doubled - from two to four. An opposite trend, however, can be seen in parliament, where the number of women actually dropped after last year's elections. That despite the fact that opinion polls suggest Czechs would like to see more women in politics.

Photo: CTK
In percentage terms, the representation of women in the current government is better than in parliament where there are only 15 percent of women in both chambers. A non-governmental organisation called Forum 50% is trying to promote equal opportunities in Czech political and public life. Do they see the change in government as a success? Kristina Gotteltova of Forum 50%.

New Culture Minister Helena Trestikova,  photo: CTK
"It definitely is, it is 22 percent of women in the government which is the most of all history after the Velvet Revolution. But the question is if the government will gain support from the parliament, so we will see what the situation will be. But four women in government, it is a success."

Forum 50% commissions regular surveys from the CVVM polling agency; they suggest growing support for a higher representation of women in Czech politics. According to the latest poll, almost 80 percent of Czechs believe that women should be actively supported and encouraged to take up politics, while growing support was also noted for some kind of affirmative action. The survey also asked people what they believe are the main obstacles potential female politicians face.

New Defence Minister Jaroslava Parkanova,  photo: CTK
"People think that the main barriers are gender stereotypes in society, the fact that women are still mostly responsible for taking care of the family, children, and so on. And people think it is also traditions and the social situation in general which is not very friendly to women in public life."

Ahead of last year's general election, Forum 50% held a contest called "Women-Friendly Party" comparing major Czech political parties as regards their attitude to women. Unsurprisingly, they say, it was the smaller parties, like the Greens and the European Democrats but also the Communist Party, that proved most supportive of equal opportunities and diversity in general within their ranks.