Now that Mother’s Day weekend is over, political activities are about to intensify as the nation waits patiently for the announcement of elections expected to be around the middle of June.
Although the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) appears to be getting its act together there is still a lot of work to be done if the party is to pull off a shock defeat against the incumbent ruling New National Party (NNP).
One of the critical activities that needs urgent attention is canvassing. A team or teams of persons experienced and skilled in canvassing should be deployed to sit down with each candidate and their campaign team to complete the desk canvassing exercise and come up with strategies that would guide the work of canvassers already in the field.
This would allow constituencies that have fallen behind in canvassing to be brought up to speed with the others. At this ninety-ninth hour there is no time for old talk and speeches that should have been done a long time ago – what is required are persons that can actually help constituencies get the work done.
The NDC planners should understand desk canvassing provides more or less a snapshot of voters in the constituency. Field canvassing will give a more accurate picture of the situation on the ground. Therefore, it is critical that each constituency employ effective strategies to get field canvassing right this time around.
They must never lose sight of the fact that NNP has a structural advantage in canvassing because of the extensive system of political patronage where beneficiaries are more likely to vote for them. The NDC must employ scientific time tested methods to compensate for this disadvantage since the NNP’s canvassing is expected to be more accurate.
Another important activity that is in need of strengthening is messaging.
Although, recently there have been improvements in messaging by the NDC a lot is still to be desired in that area for the opposition party. Some candidates and surrogates speak too loosely as their comments don’t often reflect the party’s policy positions, while others are stale and dated.
There is a need for the party’s policy committee to indoctrinate candidates and surrogates on policy positions and other messaging. All candidates and surrogates must be able to speak with one voice in going forward.
There is a need for the NDC to sharpen its message under a few themes that reflect the party’s policy positions. In addition, surrogates can be better utilised to promote NDC’s policy and programs on television, radio and social media platforms.
After the political leader announcements on pension and other labour issues last Wednesday, the question is – how many surrogates were on the various media platforms promoting and further explaining what he said the following day?
This should be standard practice going forward in order to cement the party’s position in the minds of the people.
There is also a need to further strengthen content and utilise various forms of messaging such as emotional and targeted messages to reach various segments of the electorate.
The NDC needs to tighten up considerably on its messaging if it is to attract a majority of voters in the upcoming elections.
There needs to be a last-ditch effort to get persons to register in time to be included on the voters list for the election which is likely to be around the middle of June. A media blitz should be employed using voice, print, television and other social media mediums to get persons to register now.
In addition, there should be an intensive judicious review of the voters list and addendums to make sure there is no voter padding and other irregularities. When these instances are identified the NDC should hire a team of lawyers to make representation to the electoral office on their behalf and bring the matter to the public as well.
For too long NDC has failed to give matters of election irregularities sufficient attention before an election that would raise concerns from regional and international organisations.
The NDC is definitely on an upward trajectory and can do well in the upcoming elections if the party is able to tighten up on the activities mentioned above – canvassing, messaging and voter registration. However, there are a number of downside risks that have to be carefully managed to prevent derailment of the campaign.
One of these risks are members of the old guard who are part of the management of the campaign. These persons tend to be stuck in their old ways of doing things, not welcoming to new ideas and thinking and repeatedly rejected by the electorate.
The young executive must properly manage them so as not to allow the old thinking to seep into and derail the new fresh bold agenda that appears to have sparked the interest of the electorate.
Members of the old guard, needing to regularly massage their ego, oftentimes get caught up in personality clashes and tend to overlook the bigger picture. The political leader must demonstrate strong forthright leadership and neutralise any internal squabbles that may be caused by a clash of the old thinking against the bold vision.
Known for a lot of talk and no action, they ought to be utilised in areas where their experience would allow them to function in a productive manner and contribute to advancing the general thrust of the campaign. Others who ran as candidates in previous elections should demonstrate conviction and commitment to the cause by going out and actively campaigning for the new candidates.
For instance, Nazim should go on the ground with Ron Redhead and allow him use of the Excel database of voters in St. George’s North East – this will go a long way in helping to advance canvassing in that constituency. Similarly, Phillip Alexander, Adrian ‘Persuader’ Thomas and others must come out and actively campaign with candidates rising above whatever ill-feelings they might harbour.
Another downside risk is the inability to lift the campaign to a climax because of a cumbersome organisational structure and indecisive decision-making. There are too many committees and duplication of functions to support a streamline decision-making process that would help to raise the tempo of the campaign.
Instead of all these committees there should be teams of experienced persons, able to do the work, sit with each constituency campaign outfit and assist with completion of desk canvassing, establishment of the election day, get out the vote machinery and with planning for series of constituency wide pocket meetings.
Internet trolls and propaganda cells comprising content writers and graphic artists should be created at the party’s central management to boost messaging that will undercut the NNP’s narrative and stir up people’s emotions to get them to vote for NDC.
If the NDC is not able to streamline its organisational arrangements to facilitate efficient, decisive decision-making, the party will not lift its campaign to the energy levels required for creation of a tsunami of voters. In other words, it will not be able to cause the surge to overcome the NNP firewall.
Not known for employing realpolitik methods, the NDC’s central management team runs the risk of not properly reading the political tea leaves and mood of the people. There is a yearning among the population for a bold new vision that would guide future development of the country.
The NDC’s policy prescriptions must reflect that boldness if the party is to capture the imagination of a majority of the electorate. The genuine freshness that characterises the leadership of the young political leader should always come out in his pronouncements if he is to connect with the people.
The young political leader’s direct response to the ‘pie in the sky’ comment made in parliament shows he is responsive and can throw a counter punch, a far cry from the timid approach of Nazim Burke.
The party must take a queue from him and be nimble enough to respond decisively to NNP’s attacks. They must also be able to pick up on subtle activities of the NNP geared at reinforcing their firewall of support such as recent step-up of debushing gangs, distribution of housing materials, and income support to fishermen and create messaging to counter these initiatives and peel off support.
According to reports from persons in the know on recent polling the race has tightened considerably and the realpolitik leader of the NNP has started to panic, NDC must take no comfort from these reports since it could be misinformation designed to cause the party to become complacent.
For if NDC does tighten its belt in this ninety-ninth hour it runs the risk of a heartbreaking election defeat.
NNP has taken steps to strengthen its firewall of support and is now moving to oil its Election Day machinery. Some Grenadians living in the diaspora who visited the island recently have given hints of returning to vote whenever the election is called. The question to the NDC hierarchy is – are you taking advantage of the yearning for change and fresh new leadership that is evident among the population?
Are you tightening up on canvassing and registration to put the party in good stead going into the upcoming election? Are you creating the type of messaging that would galvanise a broad coalition of support to win the election?
Are you creating the type of messaging that would galvanise a broad coalition of support to win the election? Where are the NDC surrogates on radio, television and social media to defend the party’s policies such as financing of pension?
The NDC must tighten up now and not get caught with its pants down since the election is about to be called.