ANY ENGLISH-SPEAKER has a fairly good chance of understanding the meaning of the term “prezidentská kampaň”. Getting your head around the way local campaigns actually work, however, is a much tougher task - even for Slovaks.

First on the list of absurdities is the election law. The campaign officially starts only two weeks before voting day. Since that is nowhere near enough, the presidential hopefuls do their best to circumvent the legislation. And so you see billboards on which MPs, party leaders, or current heads of state pretend not to be running for office, merely reminding you of their existence, merits and virtues. Why hasn’t anyone tried to have the law amended? Go figure.

Thanks to the incredibly confusing wording of the constitution, no one knows what would happen if someone received more than half of the votes cast in the first election-round. Do we have a winner? Is there to be a second round? We will have to cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

Then there is the substance and style of the campaign. That public broadcasters refuse to allow direct debates between candidates, replacing them instead with boring interviews with pre-defined questions, is a tradition. But this time it seems the private TV networks will not be able to organise a direct debate either, because the current president has – at least so far – refused to participate in one.

And then there is the creativity of the candidates. In her ads, Zuzana Martináková uses a Road-narrowing!” traffic sign to represent her rival Radičová. The symbolism remains to be explained. Martináková’s team has said they will not use celebrity endorsements. Why not? “Well, can you imagine Barack Obama using a celeb in his campaign?” was the response of Martináková’s election team.

Radičová had been watching the Obama campaign a little more closely. So much so, that she has virtually copied one of his ads.

Among the president’s more prominent supporters is a university professor who has been the subject of numerous reports in the Slovak media (including the Sme daily) because of his alleged harassment of female students. And with the president, just two weeks before the election, still unable to say whether or not he would post joint billboards with extremist Ján Slota, the picture is complete.

There may be many presidential campaigns. But there is only one prezidentská kampaň.

Lukáš Fila is the deputy editor-in-chief of Sme