With just over a week to go before the general election in the Czech Republic, political parties are jostling for voters in all possible ways. But how effective are their current pre-election campaigns? Alena Skodova tries to find out:
Pre-election campaigns are designed to attract undecided voters, and each party does it in its own way - this year it will be the fifth general election since the fall of communism, and experts say, that unlike in previous years, the political parties are now well aware of what they need to do. To promise things that can never be fulfilled, to blacken the competition and to entertain future voters - all this is part and parcel of all pre-election campaigns. But while before the elections four years ago hundreds of millions of crowns were used for campaigning - the money often received in a questionable way from dubious sponsors - this year the costs are substantially lower. The four parties likely to pass the five percent threshold and make it into parliament have allocated different sums to be used in their campaigns - the Social Democrats 75 million, Coalition 72 million, the Civic democrats 60 and the Communists 20 million crowns.
Czechs are being bombarded by advertisements of different kinds - TV, radio, leaflets and billboards. But some politicians always start their campaign substantially earlier: to appear amidst ordinary people is not a bad pre-election ploy. The Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus takes part in the Prague-Prcice 50 km track every year, while his rival, the head of the Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla has several times participated in the Prague Marathon. Such a move makes them visible right on the spot, and they can also be sure that the next day their photos will appear in all newspapers.
Coalition - which of course is made up of the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats - is trying to be a bit innovative this year - using exotic animals like lions and camels in photos with its candidates, or handing out soap in a box bearing the inscription 'clean hands at last'. That 'clean hands' reference is an allusion to the ruling Social democrats, who have not fulfilled their major pre-election promise - to combat economic crime in a 'clean hands' campaign. But by distributing a tin of lemonade called Kola-lice, Coalition is breaking the law, because the tin does not bear the name of the producer.
Regarding some empty slogans used on billboards, such as 'People first', experts working in public opinion research agencies say the voter does not vote for the state, he votes to improve his own life. Many ordinary people say political parties are trying to make fools of them and view TV and radio spots as stupid. So which party's pre-election campaign has been most effective remains to be seen after the elections are over.