November 2, 2012 ·3 Comments
Each day a new rally and election campaign is held across Somaliland, part of a series of campaigns for local council elections to be held in Somaliland at the end of November 2012. It is the second time such election is to be held in the country, however past mistakes and experiences seem to be ignored by many candidates and political organizations. Most of the country’s elites would suggest a comprehensive election comprising of local councils, parliament and presidential rather than splitting it to individual standalone elections which consumes a lot of country’s resources, time and budget. Such exhaustive efforts are very tiring and lack good strategy and vision and could have been reconsidered before launching it for the second time.
Many of Somaliland’s campaigners or to put it simpler- the candidates- have little or no understanding of the efforts they are putting in these campaigns. For example, campaign messages of many candidates are very ambiguous, complex and distracting. While a lot of money is spent in producing countless number of posters, banners, stickers and other advertisement material; little attention is given to the psychological impact or effect of the content. Simply, the message of a campaign should reflect what the candidate wants to share with the audience. The design of the content and structure of the message is very crucial in order to attract the most potential voters.
During the American election campaigns in 2008, president Barack Obama ran on a consistent simple message of “change” throughout his campaign while his opponent Mr John McCain originally used a message that focused on his patriotism and political experience: “Country First”; later the message was changed to shift attention to his role as “The Original Maverick” .Similarly many candidates in Somaliland fail to stick to one slogan and subsequently fail to attain the support of eligible potential voters.A well defined message with good design and content will be even the candidate’s agenda or objective, thus making him reach a victory at the polls.
While candidates in other parts of the world conduct “fund raising” campaigns, many of Somaliland’s candidates- majority of youth-operate with too little money, hence falling into debts. Though unemployment is very high and investment is too little which make fundraising difficult as income of most of country’s residents is below one dollar a day, yet some candidates have better techniques in addressing their financial situation to their close relatives or sources of funding within their family or clan. However, this is also difficult if the family members have different political views and interests than the candidate, or wholly not strong enough to maintain a good funding.
Use of paid media like newspapers and televisions are very costly and may contribute a large amount to the expenditure of the campaign, therefore it should be skillfully designed and communicated. Looking closely to Somaliland’s campaign advertisements in the Televisions, you will realize the level of similarity in both the design and content of different broadcasted messages. For example, the 10 advertisement clips aired at a particular time in a particular channel, may have the same voice of TV operator, similar music, style and timing. Such ads will neither bring a lasting impact to the audience nor even capture his attention; instead they may bring unexpected psychological dislike to such content.
Mass meetings, rallies and protests are arranged equally with same way by each campaigning party. As an observer, if you track the way local council’s election campaigns are held in the “freedom garden” across the nation, you will get irritated and disgusted. A lot of noise, long standing queues, poor audio transmissions and poor crowd control measures on the ground are the result of the negligence of the party in strategically organizing the rally so that more people get attracted and persuaded by the style of organization at the place. Most of rally participants are children, youth and women and a lot of cultural and social misconduct happens at the gatherings; many people forget their roles and responsibilities back at school, home or village while putting all of their effort to campaigning and standing the hot sun for a long day. Buses full of young energetic people move across the streets with some even holding the windows, others on top of the bus and some hanging from the sides. These buses and other campaign vehicles move with a very fast speed and with little attention causing unnecessary accidents and traffic jams in the roads of the capital and other cities that were already suffering from congestion and poor conditions.
It is not just that campaigns kick off and everybody shouts along the streets, but strategically planned campaign is the path not only to an election victory but a lasting solution to our problems. It is from here where we can see the “way forward” or the “destination” where such candidates and parties are leading our nation to. Nobody knows, where such a candidate and party manipulating the same people they expect their vote is taking to this poor country. We have to decide our own political destiny with our hands; he who is responsible will transform this country from darkness to light and he who is campaigning for self-interest and with no patriotism will definitely put us deeper and deeper to the waves of darkness and sorrow. Let us think critically, logically and with patriotism. Let us decide where we shall go next, let us not put the decision in the hands of aggressive and materialistic politicians.
Many candidates for the local councils know little about the bigger responsibilities ahead if they succeed in the elections. Serving for one of Africa’s poorest people, improving the infrastructure of the country, addressing and solving land dispute and ownership problems and apparently managing waste disposal and drainage systems are few to mention of the bigger responsibility in front of every candidate.
On the other hand, Not all the campaign efforts made by different political parties in Somaliland have a negative image within Somaliland population, but the positive aspects include the freedom of expression and political affiliations, increased social interactions as the task needs a lot of travel to different places, builds the confidence of candidates in addressing to large crowds and listening to problems of their people and country. Many parts of the country’s remote areas are initially unknown to many candidates who taste the suffering of deprived and marginalized people as they campaign, though many of them deliver false and unreachable promises, thus breaking again their little hope for tangible development.
Last but not the least; the following recommendations may be very useful to potential candidates eager to succeed in a very challenging and competitive election. After deciding target audiences for each organization, basic messages should be constantly delivered and their impact monitored. Each candidate must deliver a realistic strategy for winning and most importantly he must be equipped with pre-designed campaign plan that is the gateway to vast activities, persuasions and publicity. It was once said “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. The people to cast their vote very soon have to know that they are making their political destiny with their own hands, it is now or never so better think twice and decide once.
By Ahmed M.Elmi (Shawky)