>Czech Republic: Negative ads put right on the back foot


Czechs go to the polls today and tomorrow in closely watched regional and Senate elections. To mark the end of the campaign centre-right Civic Democrats’ electronic newsletter strikes an uncharacteristically deflated note with some rather plaintive complaints about the tough, negative and very expensive election campaign waged against them by the opposition Social Democrats (ČSSD). The ČSSD message is that the Civic Democrats especially and the current Civic Democrat-led government generally are a band of asocial, price-hiking baddies, who deserve the boot. Apart from some rather unconvincing back-of-envelope psychology about the Napoleonic ambitions and ego of ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek (possibly true, but not exactly uncommon in politics), ODS lacks any real counter apart from that sensible arguments that reform is needed and cash is limited, which will never raise the roof electorally speaking. The Social Democrats’ brutal parody of a supermarket advert – ‘ODS Hypercena. Prices Up on Everything While This Government Lasts’ is likely to prove bluntly effective. It should also probably win some kind of political marketing award for being simple, memorable, and perfectly pitched for its target audience.

And in rebuttal? Well, Novinky ODS tells us ‘Social Democracy… is sowing a whirlwind, which could raise a storm. And it may eventually turn against it’ True enough, but rather seeming to concede that the next parliamentary elections (scheduled for 2010) are lost and the left will reap a bitter harvest by stoking up economic populism in the Czech electorate, which has a big appetite for welfare and public spending which the current tough economic times will probably do nothing to reduce The current elections seem likely to see the Social Democrats gain a couple of regional governorships (they currently hold none) and dent right-wing dominance of the Senate but the real goal seems to be to knock the current minority government off balance, something the Social Democrats mean orange election machine seems well capable of.

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