First-time voters give their opinions on imminent general elections

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With only two weeks to go before the general elections here in the Czech Republic, some opinion polls suggest that 30 percent of first-time voters, that is young people between the ages of 18 and 21, will definitely not go to the polls. Of the electorate as a whole, the polls say around 9 percent are certain they will not vote. I spoke to three 18-year-olds - Kristina, Martin and Jiri - at a Prague secondary school. All three said they WERE planning to vote, so I first asked Martin how interested his friends were in the elections.

Martin:"I would say it's like fifty-fifty; some friends are interested, some are not interested at all."

Kristina:"I know some people that are really interested, but also I have a few friends and they just don't care. In the Czech Republic it's quite dangerous not to go to vote because all of the communists will go, so I think that it's not important whether you don't know who you want to vote but you know that you don't want a communist government again."

Opinion polls suggest that 30 percent of first-time voters aren't going to vote. What do you think about that?

Jiri:"It's not different in the rest of the public. Normally 30 percent of the people are not going to vote, so it just reflects the situation. I don't think it's because they are first-time voters, they are just part of the society as a whole".

Jiri, what criteria will you use when you decide who to vote for?

Jiri:"I think that you can't really have the criteria as if like deciding on the image of the politicians because today the media and the PR companies can make a great person out of a corrupt crook who is in politics, and vice versa. You can only decide pretty much on the programme."

Martin:"All the programmes are very similar..."

Jiri:"No, they are not."

Martin:"Except the communists, I would say."

Jiri:"No, I think CSSD (Social Democrats) and ODS (Civic Democrats) for example, at least the programme is certainly different."

Kristina:"In certain aspects, but if you are looking at the thing, like, all together it's similar, anyway."

Are there any issues in particular which are important to you in this election campaign?

Martin:"I wouldn't say so. As I've said already the themes, the subjects are very, very close together - except the communists, of course. They have almost the same programmes, that's why I'm going to vote probably very small, tiny parties, just to give them a chance."

Who do you think will win the elections? Who will be prime minister after the elections?

Jiri:"I pretty much have to believe the polls. Therefore I believe that ODS will win and I believe that Vaclav Klaus will be the prime minister."

Kristina:"Yeah, it's the same with me."

Martin:"I think it's very possible."

And the big question - who are you going to vote for? Kristina?

Kristina:"Democratic Party - ODS."

Jiri:"ODS"

Martin:"A small tiny party."