President Milos Zeman is supposed to represent the Czech Republic, but at the moment he is causing lots of embarrassment instead. In a live radio interview on Sunday, Zeman made use of an astonishingly large vocabulary of swearwords, some of them in English.
In reference to the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, which frequently protests Vladimir Putin's politics, he used the words "f****d up" and "s***."
“You know what p**** means in English?" Zeman asked the interviewer. While trying to translate the punk band's name into Czech, he subsequently chose a rude, vulgar description that drew even stronger criticism.
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, was among those who strongly condemned the incident: “The president should not speak in such a way as it damages the reputation of the presidency, sets a bad example and does nothing for our reputation abroad." A leading opposition politician added that he couldn't "believe the Czech president spoke in such a way." The Czech state media watchdog reportedly received hundreds of complaints from people who had listened to the interview.
The unusual choice of words has led to outrage and speculations about the president's behavior. His gaffes have made headlines in the past. During a recent visit to China, he said Taiwan was part of China, a statement that stands in stark contrast to the official stances of many European countries. Earlier this year, Zeman used a quote that called upon Muslims to kill Jews but apologized shortly afterward.
Such public appearances have not only drawn criticism but also led to a multitude of speculation about the source of such remarks. Besides his usage of vulgar words, Zeman is also known for his prolific consumption of alcohol. Not long after he was elected last year, he showed up at a ceremony and behaved in a way that made many think he was drunk. Zeman refuted the allegations and blamed his behavior on a flu. You can decide for yourself in this video:
Czech commentators are not impressed and point to larger problems posed by the Zeman presidency. Radio Praha commentator Jiri Pehe said he thinks that "President Zeman has basically privatized the presidency into his own hands, and the fact that he can do that is caused partly by the weakness of Czech political parties."
Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Czech Republic faces many problems that are common in the once-communist east. Corruption and low economic performance still prevail in many countries in Eastern Europe. Last year, the Czech prime minister stepped down because of bribery allegations. Furthermore, his mistress had spied on his wife using government resources.
Zeman has not publicly apologized for the incident.
An earlier version of this post erroneously said a Czech prime minister stepped down after six weeks in office due to bribery allegations. However, Petr Necas stepped down after three years in office because of bribery allegations. His successor, Jiri Rusnok, stepped down after six weeks in office because he had lost a confidence vote.