The Topic: The Elections
We are on the verge of our first real Parliamentary and Presidential elections in our nation’s history, and we are very short on time, thanks to the schedule put there by the army. Usually preparations for such campaigns would take a year and a half, so the little time we have makes the job really difficult, but not impossible. In reality, the Presidential elections isn’t as big of a concern as our Parliamentary elections, since we know that whomever becomes President can be changed in 4 years, but whomever gets into Parliament this time around will get to write the constitution, which is here to stay. Speaking to people from eastern European countries who have gone through a very eerily similar transition to what we are going through (Communist instead of simply authoritarian, a Police force so corrupt that it continues to burn evidence against it at every chance it gets, a population used to stability over the chaos and responsibility of freedom, Slavic orthodox Christians instead of MB and Salafists, etc..) and who also wanted the transition phase to pass quickly, so they ended up with a Parliament that looked very similar to the one they had before democracy, since no one was really ready. In order to avoid such fate, we will need to fully understand the picture at hand, and work really hard to mitigate the damage of trying to do this under such limited and severe conditions. It will be a lot of hard work, and here is where we start.
The current parliament is 444 seats, plus 10 seats that the new President, whomever he/she is, will get to appoint. However, those 10 will not be able to join in the committee that gets to draft that new constitution, so for the purposes of our math, they don’t count. Amongst those 444 seats, there will be at least 20% , approx 89 seats, who will be previously NDP, but not necessarily ideologically NDP; they will be the members whose families control the district that they live in and they are mostly located in the Delta and Upper Egypt. The reality is, the NDP didn’t have an ideology; it was a party of power and for power, and not all of its MP’s were cheaters or engaged in fraud. Sure, in the same supreme majority of the seats they had to commit voter fraud in order to ensure that their Party candidates win, but they were also in the habit of recruiting the Independent winners into the NDP either through coercion or enticement. This also means that those 20% are up for grabs for any party that is interested in some easy seats and is willing and able to recruit those candidates. So let’s ignore those 89 seats from our calculations and focus on the remaining and truly competitive 355 seats.
What we need to do in order to ensure that the MB doesn’t get to write the constitution is for whatever coalition of parties we create to represent us to win the magic number, which in this case is 223 seats (50% of 444 + 1 seats). Given that the MB is interested in winning 30% of the Parliament (133 seats), then whatever coalition we make will have to be competitive in all 355 races and make sure that the MB loses at least 1 seat in order to get 223 seats. Given that all elections are local, in order for the parties to do so, they will need good candidates, and more importantly, good campaigns. Sure, there will be voter fraud or vote buying to some extent, but this is to be expected and the more elections we have the cleaner the elections will get. So the campaigns should acknowledge that issue and try to mitigate it as much as possible, but should also operate as if it doesn’t exist. In more than one way, this is a test-run also for all the parties involved, and whatever mistakes they will make (and they will make many), it will only help perfect their political machine for all future elections. So, a good campaign is essential for all parties involved, and the most important thing in a campaign is the organization of it. If your campaign is organized, that’s 95% of the battle, and the remaining 5% will simply depend on the candidate’s likeability and ability to sell himself and his ideas.
What to do:
Any serious campaign for Parliament will require the following Positions to be filled, for they are the people that will create the organizational structure for the campaign:
- Campaign Manager: Most Important Person in the campaign. He manages the heads of the different departments in the campaign, and he sets the pace and the image of the candidate. If the Candidate loses, he is the person usually to blame. The Stories of perfectly good candidates who lost to bad candidates because they didn’t have a good campaign fills the books of political history, and a bad campaign manager (like the one Baradei currently has) will cost you the election every single time. That person must understand the political canvass, must understand politics of perception, must understand PR, must be capable of running a really tight ship and should never ever ever panic. He must be cool, collected and relentless, and must have a vision for the campaign even better than the candidate has for himself. He should never let the candidate run the campaign himself and simply execute his wishes; he must present the candidate with the full picture and options and consequences of every option. Politics is a game of lesser-evils, and any candidate must have a campaign manager who is capable and comfortable with picking ones. He is the most important person in the campaign, but there isn’t a second or third person after him/her. Everyone after that is equally important and essential.
- Research & Data Manager: More than anything, elections are about identifying the voters, polling the voters, identifying your voter segments and then counting the votes. Those are the duties of the Research and Data manager. Other duties include: Creating Focus groups, researching the issues and the solutions and seeing which resonate with the voters; researching the competition thoroughly and polling their support level as well; creating the electoral map for the campaign and knowing every voter by district, street, age group, socio-economic status, religious & political affiliations. Demographics, psychographics, purchasing behavior, level of education; you name it, they must have it. No campaign wins without the Research & Data Manager and his team.
- Communications Manager: This person is responsible for the image of the candidate and the campaign on all fronts: In the eyes of the voters, in mainstream media, in social media and on the street. This is why any communications manager must have an excellent team under him/her (preferably a her , very few men understand perception and image the way women do, at least in Egypt where in many times their lives depends on it), and that team must be big and have many different departments: The branding team (under which the entire creative department for print, posters, TV ads, radio ads, web ads, you name it), the PR team (hosting events, writing Press releases, arranging for articles to be written on their candidates in various newspapers), the Online reputation management team (this is where all those internet kids can start rumors to trash you, and you always must respond pleasantly, swiftly and decisively; like the Twitter CS teams of our local Mobile Operators), the media relations team, the media monitoring team, the Media-buying team, the Production team and the Rapid Response Team (those are your media commandos, they must be on top of everything in regards to the candidate to the second, and must memorize the positions of the candidate better than himself and be able to respond as fast as humanly possible to whatever issues or crisis that might arise for whatever reason). The candidates’ Spokesperson has to be the head of the Rapid Response team and it is preferred for him/her to be a different person than the communications manager , who in the case of a campaign turned nasty will also need a buffer from the media, just like the candidate.
- Scheduling Manager: Any campaign is about time- management, and that’s the scheduling manager’s job, for he will be responsible for the life of the candidate. This is the person that must schedule his appearances in the media and in the voting districts, alongside with fundraisers, public events, meetings with backers and stakeholders and , last but not least, the campaign management team itself. This may seem like a PR job, but it’s not, because it’s mostly about striking the balance between the operations and the Public aspects of the campaign. This is tough job, all about setting priorities and managing expectations, and therefore absolutely essential.
- Field Operations manager: This is the person responsible for voter outreach, organization and on-the-ground campaigning. This person’s work relies heavily, like the communications manager, on the research & data manager’s work , alongside with excellent organizational skills and ability to focus no matter how under pressure you are. This person will run the street teams (distributing & posting promotional material, door-to-door campaigning, creating the voter database, operating the phone banks, University outreach, election monitoring and all other logistical aspects of running the campaign. This person must be able to deal and manage young people (many of which never had a real job before) as well as old, which is not an easy skill to find in Egypt.
- Fundraising Manager: Welcome to Sales. This person’s job is to continuously sell the candidate to many people in order to raise Money to keep the campaign afloat. This person is responsible for identifying backers, working with the scheduling manager & communications manager to set-up fundraising events and send out fundraising communications. This is the person who will get you the money, while insuring that you don’t get beholden to all of your financial supporters (maybe 4 or 5, tops).
- Security Manager: This is the person who will handle your campaign’s security, whether physically or internally. He is responsible for protecting the candidate and the elections monitors come election day, and for ensuring that the campaign’s secrets, tactics and information doesn’t get leaked. He is the campaigns’ State Security, and in the current conditions we are in, he is absolutely essential.
How can I help:
As I said, I am not interested in the welfare of one political party as much as I am interested in all of them. I recognize that it would be impossible to expect one party to win all of those seats, so a coalition of parties is a must, and that can only happen if all the parties run good campaigns. I will remain objective, even if I am backing or working with someone else, because it’s in my best interest that any party other than the MB or the NDP to do well. I would be more than happy to sit down with any party or presidential campaign that will run a list of affiliated candidates and discuss their operational campaign strategy with them. If I can help in any way, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .
As for the readers, I will be going to the meetings of any new political party that gets formed and will provide all of you with the over-view of their principles, position and operations, and an objective assessment of all of that, with their contact information if you are interested to join them or check them out for yourselves. I understand that we need as much information as possible and will bemore than happy to provide that for you here. What you do with this information will be up to you.
Next post: If you want to help, but not through joining a party or campaign, how to do it.