Mavericks provide light relief in otherwise dull Czech EP campaign

04-06-2004

It's just a week to go until polls open in the European Parliament elections. For the first time the people of the Czech Republic will exercise their right to send MEPs to Brussels, and more than 800 candidates are jostling for the 24 seats up for grabs. But some have warned of low turnout, following lacklustre and unimaginative campaigns.

In the town square of Jihlava, a small market town in south-east Bohemia a band played - the music provided by the opposition Communist Party. There was also free beer and goulash for the one hundred or so elderly supporters who've turned up to listen ...

In many ways it's preaching to the converted, there being little doubt who these pensioners will vote for. They're nostalgic for the good old days, when the beer and goulash were - if not free - then a good deal cheaper than now. The Communists are riding high in the polls - ahead of any of the parties in the ruling coalition - and in a bid to broaden their appeal they're fielding one of the country's best known public figures.

That's Vladimir Remek, Czechoslovakia's first man in space. The former cosmonaut is number two on the Communist candidate list, and is almost guaranteed of winning a seat. Mr Remek is by far the most interesting candidate fielded by the mainstream political parties, in what is - even by Czech standards - an extremely dull campaign. But there are a few exceptions...

Dolly Buster, a former porn star who made her name in Germany, is also standing. Born Nora Dvorakova, she left Czechoslovakia at the age of 14, and later became one of Europe's most successful porn actresses. Now she runs a highly-successful chain of German sex shops. But she also has political ambitions, and is standing for a party called the Independent Initiative.

Dolly BusterDolly Buster "I really want to win because I've invested too much time into this now. People in the Czech Republic think that if I enter politics I can change something. Because I'm not normally political. And this is what they think."

Dolly promises to clean up Czech politics and take care of the little man, for so long downtrodden by what she says is a corrupt and bureaucratic political elite. And Dolly Buster's not the only maverick standing for election in the Czech Republic. There's Viktor Kozeny, the so-called "Pirate of Prague", wanted by police for defrauding thousands of share-holders in the 1990s. Or Prince Michael James Alexander Stewart, 7th count of Albany, who claims to be the direct descendant of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Unfortunately none of these mavericks are likely to make it to the European Parliament, despite a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the mainstream candidates. Indeed many are worried that the election here could be something of a fiasco. Estimates of turnout vary, but according to one Gallup poll carried out for the European Commission, only 20 percent of Czechs will bother to vote - the lowest turnout in all of the 10 new EU member states.

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