Social Democrats generous with promises ahead of May’s general elections
The Social Democrats launched their campaign for May’s general elections with a bang over the weekend. At a conference in Teplice on Saturday, they unveiled an ambitions programme, promising to put the Czech Republic among the top ten countries of the EU.
“You cannot fail to win if you have the right team” - the song performed by Social Democrat leaders on a theatre stage in Teplice, led by the 1980s hit maker Michal David. Originally written to celebrate the Czech hockey team’ triumph at the Nagano Winter Olympics, the tune might now accompany the Social Democrats to victory.
The programme provoked instant criticism from all other parties. The major rivals, the Civic Democrats compared the pledges to a Czech mission to Mars, and said the Social Democrats themselves must realize the promises are not realistic, while Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda said the head of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, was behaving like a control freak.
Analysts estimate the costs of all the promises at some 47 billion crowns. To pay for all that, the Social Democrats want to get more EU funds, and raise taxes. Political analyst Jiří Pehe believes that the Social Democrats will have to back out of at least some of their promises, should they win at the polls.
The campaign style might be cheesy, and the promises unrealistic, but they seem to work well with Czech voters. Most recent polls put the Social Democrats strongly in the lead, with their major rival, the Civic Democrats, lagging behind by more than 10 percent. It’s as if the right-of centre party never fully recovered from the humiliating defeat when their government was toppled during the Czech EU presidency last March.
Torn between the followers of president Václav Klaus who founded the party, and the current leader, Mirek Topolánek, they came up with long-term strategy for the Czech Republic, but they somehow haven’t managed to get their campaign off the ground. Jiří Pehe again.
To counter the Social Democrat offensive, Mr Topolánek said his party would launch the hot phase of the campaign in mid-April. Meanwhile, Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek already started planning who his coalition partners might be in the next government.