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NDC must expand its base to beat NNP

Now that the election date is announced both political parties will intensify their political campaigns in the coming days.

The ruling New National Party (NNP) appears to be sticking to its playbook of previous election campaigns that is a high intensity carnival-like atmosphere replete with whine and jam, laced with intoxicating lyrics and mamaguy old talk designed to deceive large sections of the electorate, in particular the poor and vulnerable elements of the working class.

The NNP over the years have used social programs such as Imani, housing assistance, the SEED program and construction of toilets under a system of political patronage to create a stranglehold on large swaths of the vulnerable poor working class under the mantra, ‘keep them poor they will love you more”.

The party has also used an extensive system of clientelism to attract support from the petite bourgeoisie business class in a quid-pro-quo asymmetric relationship. This has created a strong coalition of voters that have kept the NNP in power over many election cycles, including multiple whitewash defeats of the opposition party.

The NNP’s strategy is clear as day that is to create enough hype that would energise the party’s firewall of supporters into a frenzy that would cause large segments of undecided voters to join in a herd mentality. In this case these undecided swing voters are driven not by rational decision-making on policy differences but by emotionalism.

This accounts for that characteristic late surge in support for the ruling NNP in previous elections cycles. The NNP is looking to achieve that same feat this time around that will give it another commanding victory in the polls.

The NNP’s strategy of hype and mamaguy was laid bare for all to see in Tivoli last Saturday night. The NDC has to now respond with its own strategy to counter that of the NNP.

The NDC must correctly read the mood of a majority of the populace and prosecute a smart yet spirited campaign that would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the NNP don’t deserve to be given another chance.

In pursuit of such a campaign the NDC must be able to appeal to these key segments of the electorate, the poor and vulnerable, undecided and those who have not voted in many election cycles.

The strategy must be multipronged to enable the NDC to reach out to and excite these segments of the electorate enough to cause significant numbers of them to vote for the party on Election Day.

There ought to be a firm understanding that people don’t vote for a party or candidate only because it has a good policy agenda. The reasons that people vote for one party over another or one candidate over another varies widely.

In addition to policy and program considerations the reasons people vote for a party or candidate includes: likability, issues of trust and confidence, whether they can depend on you to provide for them, and if they sense a feel good vibes radiating from that party or candidate among other reasons.

Therefore, it will be foolhardy for NDC to think its low keyed focus on policy rollout and Town Hall type small group engagements will rule the day for them or totally dismiss the hype of NNP, although it has now gone over the top.

Treating supporters like infants and drunks telling them you will give them ice cream and cake and fete them for many days if they vote for you is an insult to their intelligence.

However, this is not surprising because NNP has over the years grossly exploited the notion of the leader as a provider, a relic of plantation slavery born out of the estate owner or later the overseer providing for labourers on the plantation in return for obedience and loyalty, to the maximum under the mantra, “keep them poor they will love you more”.

The 1979 to 1983 revolution sought to uplift the poor and vulnerable by educating them – what the NDC has to do in the next forty days is to incorporate elements of our culture and music in an atmosphere where the electorate is indoctrinated in big ideals, vision, and programs to uplift the poor and take the country in a new direction.

In other words, have massive rallies with a feel good vibes as well but use the opportunity to educate people on your vision and programs rather than belittle them as drunks and infants.

Going forward NDC should make the best use of the remaining Sundays to hold massive rallies that would compete with the NNP for visual optics and on Monday night prime time news programs.

The party should continue with its Town Hall meetings on Wednesday nights rotating its location among constituencies. Junction meetings and touch down activities should be held on Saturdays while polling division pocket meetings will be held in the remaining days of the week.

These activities should be brought to a climax right before Polling Day to create a surge that will overwhelm the NNP’s firewall of support. The NDC must immediately lift the tone and energy of its campaign if it is to generate that surge which will cause it to be successful at the polls.

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The NDC planners and strategists must understand there must be a sufficient surge of voters into its camp to overcome the NNP firewall of support. Though the Town Halls are attracting attention and interest, it is insufficient to create the surge required to overcome the structural advantages of the NNP.

The NDC must lift the campaign to an energy level that would create a surge of swing voters towards the party. In order to do so it must employ a strategy to attract a significant portion of the poor and vulnerable vote who are enticed by the provider notion and jam and wine aspects of our popular culture.

The party can’t allow NNP to run away with that block of voters and not be competitive as was the case in the two previous elections and expect to win. The last time the NDC got a majority of those voters in 2008 it won the elections.

Another block of voters NDC desperately needs to be successful at getting are undecided and those that have not voted in multiple past elections. The NDC must make a concerted pitch to these voters who can determine the outcome of the June 23rd election.

If the NDC wants to attract a large swathe of poor and vulnerable voters it must position itself as a provider by rolling out programs and building on existing ones that sustain their livelihoods and empower them to a higher standard of living; while creating an emotional connection by incorporating in the campaign aspects of our culture that excites them.

Utilising the remaining Sundays before the election for massive rallies is an effective medium to connect with those voters and peel off support from the NNP.

The Wednesday night Town Halls are an effective way to attract some segments of undecideds and those who have not voted in past elections. This is why it needs to be enhanced by finding the money to simultaneously broadcast the activity on live television and social media to attract a larger viewership.

The young political leader Dickon Mitchell appears very comfortable in the Town Hall setting as he engages well with the audience particularly in the question and answer component of the event.

His performance in these Town Halls has attracted quite a lot of attention as he demonstrates serious appeal which will work to his benefit and that of the party since the leader is everything in an election campaign.

For the section of the electorate who wants fresh new leadership and vision the Town Hall gives Dickon an opportunity to draw a sharp contrast between himself and the aging incumbent leader. This will help the cause of the party among voters who want change and a new direction for the country.

Touch down activities, junction and pocket meetings on Saturdays and week days will enable candidates to present their plans and programs to constituents aimed at attracting support on Election Day.

To support this multi-pronged strategy NDC’s messaging must, severally, target these important groups of voters in a way that would stir up their emotions and get them to vote for the party on Election Day.

However, four days have passed since the announcement of the election date, yet for all, rollout of messaging is still slow and disjointed. Timely preparation of effective messaging that targets key segments of the electorate should be an important element of the strategy going forward.

The NDC can’t afford to falter at this time; rather it must take the campaign to another level if it wants to be successful in the upcoming election.

There needs to be a team of surrogates on the airwaves and social media defending the party’s policy positions on various issues including payment of pension.

The NDC has too many “bright men and women” who like to “hide with their buttocks exposed”, lurking in its shadows rather than come forward and defend the party’s policies. The time has come for these persons to come out of the rear and help the party on the frontlines.

The NDC must also step up distribution of paraphernalia to its supporters and erect billboards and other forms of branding that will give the perception that the party is ready in the minds of the electorate.

The NDC must understand that the incumbent realpolitik leader doesn’t like to lose and will not go down without a valiant fight because for him the election is about his legacy. They must be prepared to pull out all the stops to overcome his firewall of support.

When one looks at the last election results the deficits of votes to overcome are significant for most of the NDC candidates. If the NDC is not able to generate that jolt of energy that would trigger a tsunami of voters to overcome the NNP firewall it could face another whitewash.

The NDC must come up with a multipronged strategy that will allow the party to attract large swaths of voters from the poor and vulnerable segment of the working class, undecideds, and those who have not voted in past elections to expand its base and overcome the NNP firewall of support.

Special Correspondent