For a few weeks now, there have been odd purple posters put up all over town with slogans like “It’s legal to die,” “It’s legal to vote,” or my personal favorite, “It’s legal to be a loser.” On one over near Letna, someone wrote, “yeah, but it isn’t very nice.”
But it turns out that these were the first moves in the relaunch of the Unie Svobody (Freedom Union), the right of center party that is still in the governing coalition along with the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats.
With a campaign that looks like it was put together maybe by anarchists, maybe by people who went to CzechTek, but certainly not by a member of the governing coalition, the party has launched its new website today, at www.its-legal.us.
The party has sought to relaunch itself along the lines of the Libertarian party in the US, or maybe one of the continent’s “liberal” parties. One of the odder things about the site is that its slogans are all in English. Granted, it’s English that most of the people they’re trying to reach can speak, but it’s still English.
As an aside, the term “liberal” in Europe tends to mean almost the exact opposite of what it does in the US – low (or lower) taxes, small (or smaller) government, for privatization of state industries, and generally for the state to get out of peoples’ lives.
If I recall correctly, Unie Svobody currently hold
three two ministerial seats (Justice, Foreign and IT), and they’re not doing very well in the polls. So their gambit is to bet on a relatively unknown and untested demographic: Let’s call them, for lack of a better name, the Roxycrats. They smoke dope every now and then, they support gay rights, they’re mad as hell about CzechTek, and they might even support larger reforms.
UPDATED 29 April 2006: Petr B. of the Daily Czech points out that the Foreign Ministry is held by the Christian Democrats, and is occupied by Cyril Svoboda.
Tonight at the gym I go to, I heard a couple of people talking about the new site. One woman who was maybe 20 thought it was a cynical attempt to restart a failed party. But one man who was around 25 thought it was pretty cool, and said he’d vote for Unie Svobody.
Earlier today, Justice Minister Pavel NÄ›mec (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Saturday Night Live’s Jimmy Fallon), said of his party’s stand in support of the decriminalization of marijuana that if they can find 250,000 voters who feel the same about legalization, the party will do fine.
But the trouble is that if the US is any example, campaigns that bet on the youth vote – from Eugene McCarthy in the 1970s to Howard Dean in 2004 – inevitably fizzle because young people don’t vote. They’ve got other things to do, whereas grumpy old pensioners show up consistently.
Out here, the grumpy old pensioners vote either Communist or Christian Democrat, depending on how they feel about the Man Upstairs. But they will turn out, as sure as Karel Gott will win the SlavÃk award for the umpteenth time.
One of the big drawbacks of having an election in June in the Czech Republic is that the weather is usually good, and most young people – the voters Unie Svobody desperately needs to stay alive – will probably just blow it off. And then they’ll light up a joint and bitch about how none of the politicians that get elected actually stand for what they want.