For Czechoslovakia’s Friends of Beer Party, Pubs Take Priority Over Political Clout
To say they like beer in this brewing city would be an understatement. It’s like a religion.
Any city that would mark the 45th anniversary of its World War II liberation by filling a surplus battle tank with the famous local brew and drinking it in one evening takes its guzzling seriously.
So it’s no wonder that Pilsen is headquarters for the national Party of the Friends of Beer, membership 5,100.
Czechoslovakia is gearing up for its first free elections since 1946, and the Friends of Beer hope to win at least a handful of seats to ensure that all those beery late-night arguments aren’t for naught.
Organizers say they are “completely serious.”
“Politics was always a favorite subject in Czechoslovak pubs, but it never led to any action,” said Ludek Sibr, a 25-year-old student teacher and a founder of the party.
Now, he said, pub sitters who dream up answers to Czechoslovakia’s many problems could contact their own representatives in Parliament.
The party is concerned with general social and cultural problems, private enterprise and competition, said Sibr and Antonin Jelinek, the group’s Prague campaign manager.
But its chief goal is improving pubs “to restore friendly relations between neighbors and not just to promote consumption of alcohol,” Jelinek said.
Many believe that during 41 years of Communist rule the culture of beer drinking declined. Under state management, the once warm and friendly pubs became ugly, unclean filling stations for alcoholics.
The feel of an English pub is what the Friends of Beer aim for, Sibr said.
His party arose out of a student strike in Pilsen that was part of last November’s peaceful revolution. After the Communists were toppled, participants looked for a way to stay active.
A joking suggestion to form a beer-drinkers’ party led to unsolicited membership applications in the mail. The students decided to establish a real political party.
The party registered, held a national congress and collected enough signatures to get on the ballot.
The typical member is a 35-year-old male, Sibr said. But the oldest is 79, and 15% of the members are women.
It is doubtful that Friends of Beer will get the minimum 5% of the votes needed in the June 8 elections to qualify for seats in the federal Parliament, but it does have a chance of making the 5% cutoff for the Czech regional Parliament, Jelinek said.
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