Electoral publicity interpreted honestly: Democratic Party. Election Campaign 2014 Series of IPN analyses

Most of the election runners entered the campaign preceding the November 30 parliamentary elections with electoral TV videos, posters, slogans and advertisements. By definition, the publicity is biased, but in the election campaign it represents the type of information that the voters accept most often. That’s why IPN decided to launch a series of analyses entitled “Electoral publicity interpreted honestly” by which to contribute to developing the political culture, analyzing neutrally the subtleties of the electoral advertisements. The election runners are analyzed in accordance with their position in ballots.

General strategy and message

The Democratic Party (PDM) distinguishes itself in this campaign by the effort to create and promote the image of a team and of a modern and powerful Social-Democratic political organization. In 2009, the party won a place on the political arena mainly owing to the image of its leader Marian Lupu. Now the image of the PDM is not associated so much with its leader. Emphasis is also laid on the representatives of the Democrats in the Government. The party’s first deputy chairman Vlad Plahotniuc, even if he is under No. 2 in the list of candidates for MP, remains in the shadow. This is a good move given his rather negative image and the multiple accusations made against him. But this move can be also considered an electoral trick as the voters are shown Igor Corman, Andrian Candu and Valentina Buliga, but Vlad Plahotniuc is above them on the list. On the other hand, the Democrats’ campaign is a complex one that involves a number of instruments. The Democrats profit from their financial advantage as, according to the first financial reports presented, the PDM and the Liberal Democratic Party spent by about 10 million lei each, mainly on advertising. The Liberal Reformist Party comes third with spending of 2.8 million lei.  

In contrast to the budget and complexity of its camping, the party has a simple slogan “We Grow Moldova”, which, by the chosen word, lays emphasis on development, but namely on Social-Democratic development, the verb ‘to grow’ being from the semantic scope of the ‘family’, implying social policies and adding a note of familiarity to the communication between the party and the voters.

Simplicity and concentration

None of the party’s leaders appear in the first video clip of the Democrats. On a dark blue background (the dark blue is the party’s color), a clear message is delivered both textually and audibly: “Here, now, we grow Moldova. Expert leaders, successful economists from all over Moldova proposed by the people grow the economy, protect the family, respect the traditions. People of good faith who can keep their words”. It is evident that they counted on the simplicity and clarity of the message in this video. In 2010 the Democrats were criticized for the ‘luxury’ video in which such national stars as Nelly Ciobanu spoke about the party’s Social-Democratic program oriented to the ordinary people, dressed nicely, in ostentatious rooms. The video was well produced and was pleasant to be looked at, but left to be desired in terms of coherence of the image and message.

Now the first video clip of the PDM is almost the opposite as the image is only a support for the concise and rather powerful message. First of all, there are made no promises. The party, as a ruling one, places stress on ‘here and now’. It is an intelligent choice because by this emphasis on the present, the voters are assured that the Democrats are good and they work right now. They do not make only promises that remain almost always unfulfilled. On the other hand, it distracts attention or leaves in the shadow the past, which is not spotless for the PDM. Furthermore, the message is very concentrated and formulated in a simple, but not simplistic language. Such a move deserves to be noted given that Marian Lupu was often criticized for his vocabulary full of neologisms. The words are close to the ordinary people: ‘grow’ instead of ‘develop’, ‘expert’ instead of ‘competent’, ‘of good faith’ instead of ‘honest’ or ‘with integrity’. They thus seem warmer and give a note of familiarity and closeness to the message, as I said.

No names are given in the video and this is an element of the mentioned strategy for building the image of the party as a professional and complex political organization that has not only leaders, but also economists. Emphasis is put on them not accidentally. The PDM intensely promotes Minister of Economy Andrian Candu, who hasn’t yet vacated his seat for the period of the election campaign. The party also banks on the fact that the people are tired of politicians, historians and businessmen. The economists are more prestigious and seem more technocratic, professional and useful for the country. Another element of the video is the representation: geographic – ‘from all over Moldova’, and institutional – ‘proposed by the people’. Clear reference is made to the primaries held by the party. For the PDM, the voters from districts count more as the result the PDM achieved in Chisinau in the previous elections was modest. The emphasis laid on the fact that the team of the Democrats includes members from all over Moldova, chosen by the people will motivate and make faithful all the supporters and members of the party and possibly other people from districts, who do not feel sufficiently represented and taken into account by other parties.

Diversity, credibility and identification

The second video clip of the Democrats shows a number of people: two pensioners, a politologist, a psychologist, a doctor and four jurists who give their support to the PDM. The idea is not original, but it is a popular and proven tactic. The protagonists of the video appear as ordinary people who have the same needs and demands as the viewers and therefore can easier convince them, looking more credible for them. The goal is to make the viewers identify themselves with the characters: first by the problems and second by the solution – the PDM. These characters are both men and women, young and elderly so that it is evident that they wanted to ensure representation by diversity.

A thing that is evident is the large number of jurists in the clip. This fact can be interpreted in several ways. First of all, it is created the image of an educated and competent voter. These qualities are often associated with a jurist rather than with a construction worker. Secondly, we should not forget that the faculty of law is one of the most popular faculties in the country, but many of the graduates cannot find a job in the field. The PDM’s message in this video centers on ‘well-paid jobs’ and ‘protected families’. These are both problems of major importance for the young professionals who cannot find employment, but want to start a family. Reference is made to the internal democracy in the party: ‘they listen to us’ say the protagonists of the video. Though indirectly, this reference is not only to the party’s primaries, but also to the PDM’s Express.

The fact that such reference is made indirectly shows that the Democrats have a complex and well-thought-out campaign that employs a multitude of instruments and coordinated tactics for creating and transmitting a message whose elements are delivered by different ways, but they make a whole. For example, a person from Orhei sees the video saying that ‘the PDM is listening’ and in several days sees the PDM’s Express in his town. Thus, the message will be much more convincing owing to the joint effect of these actions.

Leader close to the people and social policies

The election posters are the second major promotional method after videos. The PDM has a series of posters showing Marian Lupu in the middle of the people, near families, which is close to the voters. The posters contain the three key messages of the party’s campaign: ‘Well-paid jobs’, ‘Protected families’, and ‘Respected women’. These messages, as I said, focus on the ministers of the PDM, stress being put on the minister of economy and the minister of labor, social protection and family. They also allow the Democrats to strengthen and develop the electoral niche of modern Social-Democratic party by the model of the European parties, distinguishing itself from the more conservative and radical left of the Communists and Socialists. This is welcome as it shows that the PDM no longer sees itself as a successor or substitute of the Communist Party, at least at image and promotional levels (in 2009-2010, the PDM and Lupu were regarded by many as an instrument for tearing away votes from the Communists for the Alliance for European Integration), but builds a distinct identity based on a set of social policies, not promises that would cover the whole range of matters dealt with by the government. Such an approach, which can be called ‘electoral specialization’, is a constructive one and allows avoiding direct conflicts with a large part of the other election runners.

Note: This analysis refers strictly to the publicity of the election runners and does not aim to assess their quality. The bad products can have good publicity and vice versa, as the good products can have good publicity.

Eugen Muravschi, IPN

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