By Maria Ivanova, MA in Political Science, journalist at Worldwide News Ukraine
In the age when everyone wants to be young, politicians quickly figured out that speaking to the young meant reaching to the whole population. The revolutionary first term pre-election campaign of the acting American President Barack Obama demonstrated the power of appealing to the younger (and youngish) generation.
Obama’s spin-doctors used digital world to reach each and every potential supporter – Twitter and Facebook became the magic wand that gave Barack Obama the ‘it factor’. The innovative approach is now popular with many European parties. Once snobby and ultimately boring, political scene has suddenly become entertaining.
Feel like chatting with your politician of choice over a glass of beer? Call Karel Schwarzenberg. The current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic and the leader of the Czech conservative political party TOP09 organized such “beer nights” within the party’s pre-election campaign leading into the 2010 parliamentary elections. The relaxed atmosphere and Schwarzenberg’s laid-back attitude won his party nearly 17 percent of the seats in the parliament.
Ever wondered about privacy on Facebook? The German Alliance ‘90/The Greens shares your sentiment. The party, which currently has almost 11 percent of seats in Bundestag (German parliament) and was part of the ruling alliance during the two prior sessions of the parliament, asks rhetorically: “Facebook, what do you know about me?” The poster features the all too familiar “Like” button, only its thumb points downwards, expressing the grudge against privacy settings at the world’s most famous social network. One wonders what’s next to get onto the list of political parties’ agenda.
How about sex? Aging conservative politicians seem to consider it bad taste talking about sex in the parliamentary meetings. Lewinsky and Berlusconi scandals didn’t help. But the expanding of human rights and personal freedoms made sure leaving sex out of the political context could only last thus far. For a lesson on breaking the ice in a rigid society, get acquainted with progressive Polish politician Janusz Palikot.
The Polish liberal used a dildo and a gun to make his point on reported sexual abuse by police officers. His political party Palikot’s Movement vows to bring the first transsexual member to the parliament of the conservative Poland once the action is legalized. The pro-gay-marriage party now holds 10 percent of seats in the parliament.
Jumping on the celebrity-powered anti-bullying bandwagon, the Irish People Before Profit party won’t let you be bullied. Instead of protesting against the household and water taxes in Ireland traditional way, the party brands letters inviting people to register for paying a “bullying” tax. People Before Profit encourages the Irish to ignore “[government official Phil] Hogan and his threatening letters” and call his bluff.
And if getting an Oscar-winning actor (no other than Jeremy Irons) to invite people to vote for you isn’t an achievement on its own, the mayor of the Lithuanian capital Artūras Zuokas decided to show his voters he meant business while protesting against illegally parked cars. The leader of Union TAIP ran over an illegally parked Mercedes Benz with a tank. No surprise, the video of the act made it on the Swedish TV show 99 Things to Do Before You Die.
Closing the list of political parties employing the new approach is, shockingly, the Communist Party of Ukraine. The party with over 5 percent presence in the acting parliament of the Eastern European country wasn’t shy of getting down and dirty with its slogans for the October 2012 election campaign. “Land is no railroad ho to be sold for dough”, calls the party protesting the bill allowing land sale to foreigners. It is particularly refreshing to see such approach taking roots east of the border of the European Union, in such emerging democracies as Ukraine.
In the future, dropping the formal language of political dialogue and speaking the slang of the actual people will help the political parties overcome the spreading epidemic of absenteeism and ignorance. Making politics seem like a cool challenge will not only draw the voters in, but help attract better professionals to public jobs.
Maria Ivanova is a Project Manager for Kyiv-based news agency Worldwide News Ukraine.