Czech candidate quits race over comments

PRAGUE (JTA) — Former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has quit as a candidate for the top job after his comments on gays and Jews were reported in a Czech newspaper.

Topolanek, who heads the right-wing Civic Democrats Party, apologized last week before the interview was published. He quit as his party’s candidate on March 25 after some within his own party called for his ouster. He is still deciding whether to remain party chairman, Reuters reported. 

Topolanek, asked on March 20 by a reporter for the Czech gay-interest magazine LUI to describe gays, said of Transportation Minister Gustav Slamecka, who reportedly is gay, "If the going got really tough, I think he would back 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."

Fischer, the only Jewish prime minister in Europe, leads an interim, apolitical government and was appointed last year after Topolanek’s government was ousted in a no-confidence vote. 

Topolanek’s comments caused a scandal after video footage of the interview was posted online, some two months ahead of general elections in which the Civic Democrats are in second place behind the left-wing Social Democrats.   

While Topolanek said his comments were taken out of context, Fischer described them as "offensive, stupid and devious," and said he would limit his future contacts with Topolanek to a minimum.

The Federation of Czech Jewish Communities issued no official statement, expressing concern it could be used in political campaigning ahead of the elections.

However, the federation’s head, Tomas Kraus, said Topolanek’s words were "an unfortunate slip of the tongue. He might be outspoken, but certainly not anti-Semitic."
 

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