>Green machine?

> Despite my scepticism, the Czech Greens seem to be holding their act together and continuing to wage a professional and well financed campaign. The two candidates involved in punch-up in Ostrava were promptly removed from the party lists and their poll ratings are holding up. The party’s website (fairly professional – despite claims of internal critics) reports numerous events and happenings including the roughing up and arrest by police of Kateřina Jacques, the second candidate on the Green Party’s Prague list and (embarrassingly for the government) also Director of the Czech Cabinet Office’s human rights and equal opportunities department– at a demonstration against the small neo-fascist National Resistance group in Prague.

However, the party’s campaign impact has been based more on money than grassroots activism. The party has run national advertising campaign including 342 billboards and 23 giant billboards which – in conjunction with enhanced media coverage stemming from its growing support – has helped it register with voters in a way comparable established parties (‘Hodnocení předvolební kampaně’, CVVM press release Pv60528, 29 May 2006).

The price tag for this is some 20 million crowns, the bulk (9 million) borrowed from the Médea advertising agency owned by a Green party member, who was a close personal friend of Green leader Martin Bursík, and 4.8 million loaned the Česká spořitelna savings bank – underwritten by 14 party members. A mere 1.84 million is to be donated by party members apparently. The party had an existing debt of 5.4 million crowns (LN 20 May 2006).

Naturally it is borrowing all this dosh against it allocations of state funding when in parliament. An interesting illustration of the way that state funding can enable an extra-parliamentary party with some momentum can leverage it way into the political system…

And it does look increasingly likely that one way or another Martin Bursík will be sitting at the cabinet table as Minister of the Environment. The only question is whether his ministerial and prime ministerial colleagues will be of left or right…

In the longer term, however, as the experience of the Freedom Union shows, gaining office can pull apart a little party with a diverse membership of only a couple of thousand as its leaders become absorbed with the business of government. I am still scepticial.

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