When every vote counts

Photo: Kristýna Maková

Welcome to this week’s SoundCzech, a series where we teach you useful Czech words and phrases through songs. Today we will listen to Tomáš Klus’s song Panu bohu do oken. And since this is the presidential election weekend, we will focus on words connected with voting. The word you want to look for first is "volič".

Photo: Kristýna Maková
"Volič" means voter. And the word for election also comes from the same root, and it is "volby". In a different context, "volby" is the plural of the word "volba", which simply means "choice". The author of the song, feels that "voliči", the voters, get very few real choices when it comes to politics.

In another part of the song Klus sarcastically sings about politicians who are trying to protect the "občan" from capitalistic monsters. "Občan" means "citizen", and in the Czech Republic only citizens can vote in most of the elections. So when going to vote, you would have to show your "občanský průkaz", or a citizen’s ID, in order to be able to throw in your "hlasovací lístek", or ballot, literally "voting ticket". "Hlas" can mean either your voice, or the vote you give to a candidate. When Czechs go to vote, they say "jít k urnám", which means "to go to the ballot box". "Urna", though, also has a second morbid meaning, it is a funeral urn.

The song lyrics can also tell us about some aspects of the candidates that may be important to voters. Of course, most voters want their president to be "slušný", or polite and respectable. But in this song, that came out about two years ago, at a time of deep disappointment and frustration with the preceding parliamentary elections, Klus says that his country has exchanged "slušnost" for "hrubost", or crassness and incivility.

One of the candidates in the current presidential election has sometimes been called "slušňák", or a "Mr Nice Guy", which has at times played to his advantage, and sometimes not at all.

Klus continues his disgruntled ditty by accusing Czechs of not taking their future into their own hands. In the song, he uses another version of the word to vote, "volit", or in this case "zvolit", in a slightly different context.

In this case, "zvolit" just means to choose, but it can also mean to vote for someone. The lyrics blame the Czech nation, "národ", for choosing "vyčkávací taktiku", which literally translates as "delay tactics". Klus is trying to say that Czechs often complain about politics and the cards they’ve been dealt, but usually wait for someone else, often the mythical knights from the Blaník hill, to resolve the situation.

But you can see for yourself if Tomáš Klus is right this time, as you watch the results, or "výsledky", of the presidential election come in from the different "volební okrsky", or electoral districts. Maybe, Czechs will surprise themselves and the "volební účast" - voter turnout, or literally participation – will surpass even the impressive results from the first round of elections two weeks ago.