Satirical group now aiming to change Brno council from within

Local elections later this year should be particularly interesting in the Moravian capital, where the protest group Žít Brno have just announced that they will stand. Their move comes in response to the removal of their Facebook page on the orders of Brno’s mayor, a frequent target of the group’s satire. But what can Žít Brno actually achieve?
Žít Brno (To Live Brno) was established in 2010 when a group of local intellectuals and civic activists essentially hijacked what they regarded as a fatuous official slogan adopted by the city’s council.

The pranksters registered the internet domain name Ží before the municipal authorities thought of doing so, using the site to make fun of local politicians and what they considered their megalomaniacal plans to transform the city. The campaign won national attention and the group attracted 17,000 fans on Facebook.

Last weekend their page on the social network was removed, on the grounds of copyright violation, by a lawyer acting for Mayor Roman Onderka. He is a frequent target of Žít Brno’s satire.

Roman Onderka,  photo: Barbora Kmentová
In direct response, the group announced on Tuesday that they were moving from mockery to regular politics and would field candidates in local elections in the autumn.

On the line from his hometown, founding member Michal Kašpárek discussed Onderka’s step – and Žít Brno’s aims.

“This is not how the mayor should behave. I think there are many more important problems in Brno that need to be faced, and harassing people that have different opinions is not one of them.”

Your slogan is “hůř už to dělat nejde”, which I guess translates as “it can’t be done any worse”. Are things really so bad in Brno local politics?

“I think the biggest problem is the problem of style, of communication with citizens. Because when a city so big is preparing a new urban plan that literally rules the lives of every citizen in the city, and the town doesn’t want to hear from citizens what they’re interested and what they want from the city, how they want the city to look. And the town council just organises a one-shot hearing and it basically leaves out everyone who disagrees with the politicians – that is something we want to change, the style of communication.”

Michal Kašpárek,  photo: archive of Michal Kašpárek
What would constitute success for Žít Brno?

“I think a success would be any result that gives us a part of actual power in the city.”

How optimistic are you that that will actually happen?

“I’m not extremely optimistic but I think it’s quite possible to achieve this goal.”