The volcano, Elvis and other stories from the election campaign

'I will cancel morning hangovers', photo: CTK

Czechs have been living in the state of permanent political campaigning ever since the fall of the government last March. Early elections were supposed to be held in October, but in the end we have had wait for the regular term next month. All this time, political parties have been coming up with new ideas, slogans and counter-slogans to catch people’s attention.

The Social Democrats are leading in the polls with their evidently Obama-inspired motto of change and hope. But their leader, Jiří Paroubek, made headlines in the Icelandic press this week when papers there reported on a billboard – featuring his face – promising “I will cancel the Icelandic volcano”. This was part of a continued counter-campaign, which also includes slogans such as “I will bring back Elvis” and “I will cancel morning hangovers”.

But Mr Paroubek manifested a good sense of humour when Thursday’s Social Democrat rally in Ostrava featured an Elvis impersonator, and offered supporters a drug antiethanol that is supposed to alleviate hangovers.

'I will cancel morning hangovers',  photo: CTK
The right-of-centre Civic Democrats have come up with a one-word slogan – solution. They are offering a solution to the economic crisis, unemployment, high taxes and other issues. But they recently had to “solve” problems with their leadership, after dumping former prime minister Mirek Topolánek. The new leader, Petr Nečas, underwent a baptism by fire some two weeks ago when he for the first time faced Social Democrat Jiří Paroubek in a live debate on Czech TV. And he did well, according to analysts, when he suggested Mr Paroubek makes a deal with the public broadcaster under which he would replace the daily good night fairytale for kids.

The Christian Democrats will have to pray this time to even enter the lower house. Their motto for the elections – “It’s a good day when the whole family gets together” – has been labelled by media experts as trivial and self-evident. Maybe they should have stuck to their former slogan, “Calm power”. But that would now rather suit the Communists, whose steady support base virtually ensures they will be in the next parliament.

The new party TOP 09 has based its campaign on the personality of its popular leader, Karel Schwarzenberg. Although aristocratic titles were banned in Czechoslovakia in 1918, supporters of Mr Schwarzenberg often refer to him as “the prince”. He has a reputation for sleeping during tedious meetings and debates, a feature often mocked by opponents. The party therefore came up with a billboard featuring Mr Schwarzenberg’s photo and the slogan ‘When they’re talking nonsense, I doze off’.

In an interview this week, Mr Schwarzenberg praised the former Social Democrat prime minister Miloš Zeman, who is running with his own party. He said Mr Zeman was a great prime minister, and would have been ever better if had not been such a boozer. But Mr Zeman struck back and shared his own story about Karel Schwarzenberg. The prince was reportedly inebriated, and was dozing off on a table. Somebody woke him up, addressing him as Count Schwarzenberg. The aristocrat looked at him and said, ‘That would be ‘prince’, my dear fool’.