Pre-election campaign under way
With the June parliamentary elections drawing near, pre-
election campaigning is starting in earnest. Olga Szantova has the
Well, the Czech voter knows now, what to expect by way of
campaigning on Television and Radio and as Czech Radio's director,
Vlastimil Jezek commented, I'm a bit sorry for the listeners'
sake. To explain, during the past elections each political party
running for parliament prepared its own Radio and TV spots, much
along the line of advertisements, and the audience became sick and
tired of being sold various political mottoes and slogans.
Committee for the Defense of Unjustly Persecuted Persons
year there were suggestions that the system should be changed and
the time allotted to pre-election campaigning be used for round-
table discussions between various party representatives. At first
it seemed the idea would catch on, BUT the right wing Republicans
and the up and coming pensioners' party flatly refused the idea,
while the Civic Democratic Party, the Freedom Union and the Civic
Democratic Alliance insisted that they would only participate in
discussions where they could pick and choose their opponents.
Moreover, while Czech Radio backed the planned discussions, Czech
Television took the stand that its moderators could not take part
in any such round-table discussions, because it would be
contradictory to the independence, objectivity and autonomy in
decision making which is a must in their profession. Which all
adds up to the final decision reached by representatives of the
various political parties last Thursday.
The pre-election campaign
will, once again, consist of spots prepared by the parties
themselves. Listeners and viewers will hear and see them during
the last two weeks before the actual elections at a rate of one
hour a day, those 60 minutes being divided throughout the day into
blocks no more than 3 minutes long. So much for actual Radio and
TV publicity. The parties are already starting to work on their
spots. They are also busy getting ready for the big day in
numerous other ways.
Money, of course, is essential. And, to quote
just one instance, the Freedom Union is getting a loan of 28
million crowns from the Union Trading Company. But finances are
playing an important role in other ways, too. The Christian
Democrats are having problems in explaining how come that in 1996,
the year of the last elections, the sum they got from membership
fees was nearly three times higher than in other years. Financial
authorities are looking into the matter. Also under inspection is
financing in other political parties, and the open question marks
are already taking away some of their potential voters. That goes
for the Social Democrats.
On the other hand, the Civic Democratic
Party, in spite of the fact that its financial scandals, which
eventually lead to the fall of premier Klaus's cabinet, have not
been explained, is gaining back some of its lost backing. The
voter is inscrutable. Who knows, he may even come to like the pre-
election TV and Radio spots.
The Committee for the Defense of Unjustly Persecuted persons came into
being in the wake of a "normalization period" of political repression
in the Czech lands. On Monday its 30 or so members got together to
mark its 20th anniversary -in better times. Daniela Lazarova has the story.
It was a dissidents gathering at which the leading figure was notably
absent. "Vaclav Havel is very much in our thoughts" former dissident
and leader of the Freedom Union Jan Ruml told journalists, we have
sent a written message of greetings to Innsbruck and hope to see him
back in office as soon as possible."
Vaclav Havel was one of the co-founders of the Committee for the
Defense of Unjustly Persecuted Persons and he himself was a constant
victim of communist persecution. In fact shortly after the committee's
founding, on April 27th 1978, he and five other leading
representatives were submitted to a political trial and handed
sentences from 2 to 5 years. Nevertheless, the committee survived
through the next decade, cooperating with international human rights
organizations such as Helsinki Watch or Amnesty International, and
filing over 1000 official protests .
Shortly after its founding the
association became member of the International Federation for Human
Rights, entered under the name "Czechoslovak League for Human Rights"
. Although some of its members fled the country they continued working
and supporting the Czech human rights group from Austria, Great
Britain, France or Sweden, all countries which did a great deal to
help Czech dissidents.
Today many of these human rights activists are actively involved in
the country's political life, among them President Havel,former
interior minister and head of the Freedom Union Jan Ruml, senator
Vaclav Benda and former head of the Czech Intelligence Service
In their view the Committee does have a mission even
after the fall of communism - to help cleanse the interior ministry
and justice system of those who actively persecuted innocent people
under the former regime. Some of these judges are active to this day -
a fact which former dissidents -and not only they -view with bitter
Radio Prague All Rights Reserved
Please send us your comments
RP Home / Radio Prague in English / Commentary