Political pundit’s recipe for election success: less ideological talk and more solutions to concrete problems

In just over a month Czechs will go to the polls to vote in local and senate elections. The vote due to take place on October 15th-16th is expected to be influenced by two important factors – the change of balance on the Czech political scene following May’s general elections and the emphasis on cost-cutting at all levels of government intended to curb the deficit in public finances. As parties launch their campaigns, Radio Prague asked political analyst Jiří Pehe in what way this election campaign may differ from previous ones.

“Well, I think that the nature of the campaign has changed significantly. We saw at the beginning of this year a campaign that was fully in the tradition of the previous campaigns when the two largest parties, the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats fought each other. Now we have four parties which all have basically the same chances of succeeding and we see a shift in the strategies of some political parties, for example the Civic Democratic Party is now fighting not only the Social Democrats as it used to, but it is also challenging some of the program priorities of TOP 09 and Public Affairs.”

This campaign comes at a time of far-reaching austerity measures – are we likely to see less aggression in this campaign and a greater focus on issues?

“I think that this campaign will be more issue-oriented simply because it is a campaign for municipal elections, but I think that in general the fight between the political right represented by the Civic Democratic Party and TOP 09 and the Social Democrats on the left will be prominent in this campaign because for the Social Democrats the elections represent an important opportunity to show that the policies of the current centre-right government are anti-social and that the government is not going in the right direction.”

Civic Democrats' billboard
We’ve increasingly seen political parties getting advice from abroad on how to conduct their campaigns, we see that the Civic Democrats are in a way copying the British conservatives in their billboards and in their style, what are the main mistakes that Czech political parties still make in campaigning? What are the lessons they should learn?

“I personally think that the biggest mistake of Czech political parties is their proclivity for copying blindly Western examples. They need to realize that the Czech Republic faces specific problems, that the way Czechs receive various political messages differs significantly from let’s say the United States or Great Britain. We saw that in May’s general elections when the Social Democrats invested a lot of money into a campaign which was run by an American PR company and in the end it was totally counterproductive because the Americans used the kind of campaign strategy which might have worked in the United States with its emphasis on negative campaigning, but it really did not work for the Social Democrats in the Czech Republic.”

What would work in your opinion?

“Czech voters showed in the last elections that they are really fed up with strong polarization and ideological messages, they simply want politicians to focus on their concrete problems and concerns. So I think - the more political parties focus on concrete, specific issues, the better they will do.”