I apologise for the short pause between postings, but I have been driving back to the Czech Republic after my few weeks in England. I arrived in England on the day of the General Election and then managed to arrive back here just in time for the Czech election. I am clearly a glutton for punishment. I am not a fan of the hoohah that surrounds elections, the principle of elections yes, but I'd rather just put a cross in a box without having to endure the weeks prior.
It has however been interesting to observe the Czech election process. The first difference I noticed was the sheer number of election posters. Huge billboards with smiling or frowning politicians (usually male) line the roads, even in the country. Every telephone box and bus shelter is covered with them. And why, I ask myself, do they choose such awful photos, ones they should be ashamed to have even in a passport? Either that or politicians are particularly ugly. I was talking about one poster to some British friends. “You know the one,” I said. “The one who looks like a shocked weasel.” Sadly for the poor man, my friends all knew which one I meant.
The Social Democrats have had a particularly mawkish poster campaign in a shameless effort to portray itself as a protector of the family (or should that be “hard-working family”) against the cuts and austerity proposed by the right-wing parties. Here's one such poster – and yes they also had one of a baby being kissed. This campaign then was countered by a series of parodies - one poster showed Paroubek with the slogan "I promise the weekend will be five days longer."
Throughout the campaign it appeared that the Social Democrat approach was working, with opinion polls showing them apparently heading for "a great victory" (according to their leader the so-called bulldozer of Czech politics Jiri Paroubek). But it does not do to believe opinion polls, the Social Democrats did come first with 22%, but only 1.8% ahead of the next party the Civic Democrats. It was hardly a victory, the Czechs had swung to the right and the only viable coalition government is a right-wing one. The real victors in this election was TOP 09 a new party which ran its campaign on a ticket of welfare cuts and austerity. The unpopular Paroubek recognised the country's mood and stood down as leader. Meanwhile the talks to form a centre-right coalition began. Now doesn't this remind you of somewhere else?