* Women in politics and the attitudes of the public

Low rate of representation of women in politics is closely connected with the status of women, who are regarded rather as a social group than as individuals. At the same time, their social status is lower than that of men. Perception of citizenship as defined by French theoretician Chantal Mouffe in her theory of radical democracy is in direct contrast to this construct. According to Mouffe, citizenship should be perceived as a form of political identity, which is fully compliant with the principles of freedom and equality (Mouffe in Seidman, 1995).

 

There are two different approaches to the assessment of women’s political participation. Conservative approach puts strong emphasis on the power of political identity, perceiving it as stronger than gender identity. Majority of right-wing political parties, which are generally less active and flexible than the left-wing parties in taking measures for eliminating inequalities between men and women, identify with this attitude. On the contrary, liberal approach stresses the possibility of distinct political culture of women.

We can establish that present situation in the Czech Republic to a certain extent copies theoretical approaches to participation of women in politics. Apart from the already mentioned left-wing Czechoslovak Democratic Party (ČSSD), a party, which has been in the long term represented in Parliament and during the last two election periods in also in the Government, only several smaller liberal political entities acknowledge equality of men and women (Humanistic Alliance, Green Party, Hope, Route of Change). These, however, have not obtained the 5 % of votes necessary for admission to the Chamber of Deputies. No political party has executed in practice the parity system of candidate nomination (man - woman or woman – man alternating). Ann Phillips, a British political scientist, points out the contradiction between the formal principle of equality of all people embedded in most constitutional systems and the everyday, primarily political reality.

Besides nomination of women on ballot lists, issues of abortion and legalization of soft drugs also serve as indicators of liberally conservative polarization. Whereas conservative parties – primarily Christian Democratic Union (KDU-ČSL) and a part of Civil Democratic Party (ODS) advocate ban on abortions, including criminalization of doctors violating this law, and strict prosecution of the so called soft drug users, left-wing parties (ČSSD as well as KSČM) are rather liberal. Freedom Union (US-DEU) advocates strictly liberal attitude in both of the issues and their minister has also proposed the already mentioned liberalization of drug policy.

Since men have a predominant role in current political discourse, women’s denial of politics can be regarded as denial of masculine political style rather than denial of politics as such. This may explain why in the Czech Republic the issue of equal opportunities of men and women had not been regarded as a political theme for a long time. In the last parliamentary elections (June 2002) only ČSSD included the issue of equality between men and women in their programme. For this reason, we will concentrate in this work not only on description of women’s participation in politics of the Czech Republic and its potential changes, but also on the changes of public perception of women’s participation in politics.

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