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.
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 earned him the ridicule of 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.