Czech president to be sent thousands of pens

Updated: 2011-04-14 09:29
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PRAGUE - Some say the pen is mightier than the sword. If true, Czech President Vaclav Klaus will soon be a very mighty man.

More than 5,000 Czechs have signed up to a Facebook campaign to mail pens to the president after a video of him sheepishly pocketing a pen he took an obvious liking to during an official signing ceremony last week in Chile became widely popular on the Internet.

Czech president to be sent thousands of pens
Czech President Vaclav Klaus (L) looks at the pen used by his foreign minister to sign a bilateral agreement with his Chilean counterpart, then appears to pocket the pen with his left hand, and buttons his jacket, during a news conference with Chile's President Sebastian Pinera (R) following the signing, in Santiago April 4, 2011, in this combination picture (top-bottom). Czech media chided Klaus on April 12 after a viral Internet video showed him discreetly pocketing the ceremonial pen during the signing, although presidential spokesman Radim Ochvat said Klaus had a right to take it. Pictures taken April 4. [Photo/Agencies]

Klaus says it's customary for leaders to keep pens after signing accords. But the manner in which he sized up the pen -- encrusted with semiprecious Chilean stones -- and then sneakily slipped it into his pocket while he sat at a desk alongside Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has seen him ridiculed by some of his countrymen.

"It seemed to me absolutely inappropriate to do anything like that during an official ceremony," said Vojtech Palous, a 23-year-old student of medicine from Prague.

"To do that in front of television cameras was just insane."

Campaign participants are being asked to send to the presidential office pens, pencils or other writing means on May 2 because "Mr. president obviously has nothing to write with."

Palous said it is likely his family will send the president a parcel with a collection of pens.

"The campaign is great because so many people were able to say they disapprove with Klaus, and they can do it in a relatively funny way," Palous said.

The Czech Foreign Ministry declined comment Wednesday when asked if they thought Klaus' huge YouTube exposure could harm the country's image.

Palous said the country's image will survive, but the video makes the president seem a little weird.

"It doesn't harm the Czech Republic, but it says something about the way he represents us... His way of representing is weird and this video proves that well."

The conservative Klaus relishes being at odds with the mainstream and his views often dramatically differ from those of his archrival Vaclav Havel, whom he replaced as president in 2003.

Klaus has been publicly at odds with the widely held view that humanity is the probable cause of global warming, and is a strong opponent of gay marriage in what is considered one of Europe's more liberal nations.

The renowned Euro-skeptic also didn't allow the European Union flag to fly over Prague Castle, his official seat, during the Czech EU presidency in 2009 because he said the country was not an EU province.