Trams and garbage trucks decorated with a green heart and Prague Mayor Pavel Bém’s signature are crisscrossing the capital two months before the elections. The city hall and the mayor, who is seeking a seat in the lower house of parliament, say it is not an election campaign sponsored by public funds but a project which aims to make the city cleaner and raise environmental awareness among its citizens.
“The mayor’s signature represents only his patronage,” said the Čistá Praha (Clean Prague) project’s spokeswoman, Simona Kijonková, who promised that Bém’s face would not appear on any flyer.
Bém last year had the dubious honor of receiving the Ropák anti-prize from Children of the Earth, a Czech NGO which promotes ecological issues. The mayor is trying to promote a different image now with new benches and freshly planted trees as well as dozens of billboards. To promote the project, the city has earmarked almost CZK 4 million.
“The event is not a campaign but a long-term project which corresponds to a promise the city council made as part of its policy. If I were to avoid making decisions before elections I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Bém said. Coincidentally perhaps, the campaign logo for Čistá Praha features a green heart similar to the blue one which the ODS, Bém’s party, is currently using in its nation-wide election campaign.
The ODS recently criticised the Central Bohemia governor David Rath, the Social Democrat’s No. 2 candidate, for using public funds for personal promotion. Rath spent CZK 250,000 from the regional budget for a full-page advertisement in the tabloid Blesk, in which he boasted of taking his sons for a bike ride. “We’re using similar methods that were used back in the day – and which other regions are using too,” said Rath.