An exotic-looking opera composer and painter who was compared to ‘an exotic creature from Papua New Guinea’, is holding a surprise third position in opinion polls ahead of Czech Republic’s first-ever direct presidential election this week. It’s no surprise that Vladimir Franz, a 53-year-old professor at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts, received such a vivid description by a debate caller. He is hard to miss in a crowd, with his entire face covered in swirls of red, green and blue. Admitting to having no experience in either politics or economics, he still ran a successful campaign for the semi-ceremonial position of president of the Czech Republic.
The country is electing a replacement for Václav Klaus, who is barred from holding the office for another term by the constitution. The ballot on Friday and Saturday will be the first after a reform which took the power to elect the head of state from the national parliament and made it an issue of popular vote.
Franz, an independent candidate with no party affiliations, entered the race after a group of admirers launched the ‘Franz for President’ initiative and plead him to shake up the election with his shock factor.
Since then he has spent US$25,000 from donations on his campaign. Most of his staffers, including a leading economist, are working for free. He didn’t put up any posters, focusing instead on social media and Internet audiences. A Facebook page for his campaign scored more than 55,000 ‘likes’ – far more than other candidates. Franz’s message highlights graft and underlines the importance of education and the nation’s moral standing.
“The (political) system is so enchanted with itself that it’s lost the ability to self-reflect,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday. Czechs, he says, “are fed up with this crap.”