Friday, June 02, 2006

Czech Political Posters!

It's election time in the Czech Republic. For quite some time, political posters have been taking over the signboards, advertising spots, and random empty spaces everywhere.
While I am not a connoisseur of political advertising anywhere, I did make a feeble attempt to collect photos of the various types of poster, in part because there are so many different parties, and in part because many of the signs develop interesting defacements. Unfortunately, I usually see the most remarkable ones when on public transit with the camera tucked away or at home.
How many parties are there in the Czech Republic? Well, lots--including a folkloric party (what did I do with its flyer?) and a safe sex party--but only about five have any power. A party has to get a certain percentage of the vote in order to put anyone in parliament. The Green Party, for instance, which is stronger here than in the US, nonetheless is just getting a foothold on the threshold. There is concern that a vote for the Greens is a vote thrown away and abetting the Communists, but all the same, I know a few people who plan to vote Green as the Greens are likely to get at least some representation.

For awhile, it seemed as though the Communists were the only ones to diverge from a really boring pattern of headshots plus party name. The KSCM has favored posters like this, with scenes of young couples looking forward to a better future ostensibly provided by the Communist "solution." Originally these posters claimed that the Communists had "other solutions" but this prompted considerable satire so the slogan was switched to their merely having "solutions." Personally, I don't see much difference, as you can still make most of the same jokes about their purported solutions. It is noticeable, however, that the one party associated with voters over fifty (pensioners who remember Communism as a time when life was more secure and hard work and intelligence were not required to keep a job) plasters young people on its billboards.

While at the polls the parties are identifiable by random numbers, parties no longer seem to be using the numbers as an advertising strategy ("vote 5" or whatever). Instead, they seem to be taking a cue from the Greens and associating themselves with particular colors. (And note the official-looking added text pasted on next to the candidate who will work for us. Although I'm not sure what the satirical nuance of "We sincerely think it" gets at; perhaps a mere expression of disbelief.) I must admit I think most of the ČSSD candidates look like they belong on another planet, although this one is relatively ordinary looking.

Here we have part of the SNK team vowing to fight corruption. In fact, they say they're "firmly" against corruption. (One would hope so.) I'm not sure whether they have any further platform than this, unless they are also the party that claims to have equal representation for women (I have really not been following all those bus ads that closely). I can't remember hearing anything bad about them, but they too come in for their share of derision. Whether it is from ordinary vandals or proponents of other parties is less clear, but juvenile forms of embellishment to candidates' faces are not uncommon on election posters of all stripes.

The ODS is one of the largest and most secure parties, and recently its ad campaign has become quite creative. One sees everything from plain, simple verbal ads on benches (invariably focused on its catchwords of "future," "society," and "hope") to small girls who have been encouraged to roam the city holding bouquets of blue ODS balloons.

I was most surprised, however, by this Brno-area ODS poster, which advertised that the party was going to have a festival at Veveří castle involving knights, falconers, and so on.

Months back, a series of mysterious lavender English-language posters began to appear all over the place announcing that this or that was legal. There was lively curiosity as to what this was all about, although as there has recently been a fashion in advertising for plastering a mysterious sign or symbol everywhere before revealing what it is advertising, a few people did suspect it might be the sign of a new political party. Once the party admitted its identity, it began posting signs in Czech as well as English. It appears to be focused on youngish voters who can read English and who are not only anxious to maintain their freedom of thought and sexual identity but who also believe that free internet access is a civic right. Well--sounds fine to me. On the other hand, what is their plan for preserving/achieving these things?

On the surface this election at least involves some viable choices, despite strong voter skepticism. While European-style governments that usually lack strong majority parties have their faults, at least there will be several parties represented in parliament. While a vote for the folkloric party is probably a vote thrown away, a vote for the Greens is probably not.

You can also read Jesse's accounts of the percentages of party support, the Communist party and its ads, and humorous responses to the election.


Blogger P'tit-Loup said...

I must admit it is refreshing to see something else than a two party system. Although there is a green party in the US, it sure is no competition to the two main features. Are the Cech elections a big business like the US? That is what is so depressing here. It's all about money and who's interests are preserved. Any free thinker is labeled as a crazed left winger, and everything must be done to maintain the status quo. We are having primaries next week and there are no choices, even though I am canadian and do not vote anyways! I still wish there were some decent candidates on the horizon. I am such a socialist, and living in a capitalist country takes its toll on my hopes for the citizens of the country.

June 03, 2006 6:43 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

I don't think the parties here are quite such big business as in the US, but some of them clearly have a lot of cash to spend on advertising. I just discovered that even the back of my return ticket from Rakovnik has an ad for the ODS.

June 03, 2006 11:43 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

The poster showing Topolanek as a shepherd or whatever is actually a CSSD one. They had a large number of posters purporting to be ODS ones and saying unfavourable things about the ODS. (I still prefer Topolanek in shepherd garb to the slimy Paroubek, however).

June 04, 2006 2:48 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Thanks for catching that! I didn't look at it all that carefully.

June 04, 2006 6:22 PM  

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