BUDAPEST (Reuters Life!) - A two-tailed cartoon dog offering free beer and eternal life has galvanized Hungary's latest election campaign.
The dog is the symbol of a party that has grown out of Hungary's rock-bottom regard for its politicians as the country lurches from one crisis to another.
"We just elect these people to represent the gangsters and the rich," said Gergely Kovacs, chairman of the Two-Tailed Dog Party (TTDP). "This kind of democracy is ridiculous."
Founded as a street-art spoof in 2004, the TTDP has mocked campaigns before. Now it has entered the political arena for real as the public mood has sinks even further.
A government scandal ignited bloody street violence in 2006. In 2008, the country faced financial meltdown and the global crisis caused a deep recession last year, toppling the government.
Now, with municipal elections due in October, Hungary is facing its third election campaign in 18 months.
Disgusted, the Two-Tailed Dog Party decided to run for office in Budapest and the southern Hungarian town of Szeged with the slogan: "Eternal life! Free beer! Tax cuts!" "Money without work!" is another popular cry as are: "We will promise anything," "There's a 93 percent chance we won't steal" and "You will be happy!"
The point is to run for, not to win office -- unlike Iceland's Best Party, which used satire to win the mayoral post in the capital Reykjavik earlier this year, and actually took the job.
"We don't really want to be mayors," said Kovacs, 30. "Only exclamation marks. It would be a pretty strong criticism of the political elite if anyone believed us more than other parties."
True, considering the TTDP proposes things like flooding the main roads of Budapest with water (and on holidays, beer) to fight traffic and pollution. They also plan a network of express buses which stop nowhere.
In Szeged, in the middle of the Great Hungarian Plains, the party promises to build a space port, and an artificial mountain for winter sports.
"The one thing the Two-Tailed Dog Party probably does not want is my praise," said Szeged's Socialist mayor, Laszlo Botka. "But in a hateful, mud-slinging Hungarian political climate, their message is very important."
Botka is popular in Szeged but faces a tough re-election campaign as his party trails the conservative Fidesz nationally.
"We reviewed (the TTDP's) program, and almost adopted the eternal life part," Botka added. "We only dropped it because it was too difficult to set an appropriate retirement age."
(Editing by Steve Addison)