Topolánek set to leave politics after new blunder

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Former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, whose blunders during last year's Czech EU Presidency left a bitter after-taste, is set to leave politics after comments he made about gay people and Jews were quoted by the press in Prague.

Topolánek has stepped down as the top candidate of his Civic Democratic Party (ODS; European People's Party-affiliated) ahead of general elections due in May, the Czech press announced. He was replaced by senior Civic Democrat politician Petr Ne?as.

The former prime minister, who was asked by a reporter from Czech gay-interest magazine LUI to describe gay people, said of Transport Minister Gustav Slamecka, who is reportedly gay, "if the going got really tough, I think he would stand down. [Prime Minister Jan] Fischer – who is not gay, he is Jewish – he would do the same. It's in his character: it has nothing to do with being gay."

He is also reported to have said that the church "controls people by means of brainwashing".

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer, who is indeed Jewish, described his predecessor's comments as "offensive, stupid and devious," and said he would keep his future contact with Topolánek to a minimum.

Topolánek said he had sent text messages to Fischer and Slamecka to apologise.

"I apologise to gays, to my friends and to all others. I apologise to members of churches – to those I know as well as to those I do not know. I apologise to Jews – those in politics as well as outside it. I apologise to the citizens," he said.

Even if the Civic Democrats can effect a comeback, it now seems that Mirek Topolánek's days in the upper echelons of Czech politics have come to an end, the Czech press writes.

The Czech EU Presidency, which took place in the first half of 2009, was marred by scandals, some of which involved then-Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who went on to resign before the end of Prague's stint at the EU's helm.

Presenting the Czech EU Presidency's priorities in January, the prime minister caused an outcry when he suggested that the EU's Nice Treaty was better than the Lisbon Treaty, which the Union's leaders were at the time struggling to push through (EURACTIV 15/01/09). 

While Europe was trying to reset relations with the USA under its new president, Barack Obama, Topolánek referred to US stimulus policy as the "way to hell" (EURACTIV 25/03/10).

A video showing Topolánek punching a photographer taking pictures of his baby son was a great success on YouTube.

More scandalous were nude photos of Topolánek in female company, taken at the villa of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Sardinia (EURACTIV 02/06/09). Although the tall naked man's face was blurred on the published photos, little doubt remained as to the identity of the high-level visitor.

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