Electoral publicity interpreted honestly: Liberal Democratic Party. Series of IPN analyses. Elections-2014

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.

The third contender in the ballot will be the People’s Force Party (PFP), but, as this party hasn’t yet started an active election campaign with videos and posters, we will analyze the next runner - the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) - and will return to the PFP when the party publishes materials that can be analyzed within this series.

The bicephalous PLDM

The Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova is to a certain extent in a situation similar to its rival and, simultaneously, government partner the Democratic Party (PDM). The leader of the PLDM Vlad Filat was involved in too many and too large controversies, together with the first deputy chairman of the PDM Vlad Plahotniuc. Plahotniuc remains in the shadow in the current election campaign, while Filat has to deal with a dilemma: as the leader of the party he cannot and does not want to disappear from the public arena, but can also not remain the only promoter of the party if he wants to have a good score in elections. The deputy chairman of the PLDM and current Prime Minister Iurie Leanca has an almost irreproachable reputation. A diplomat by profession, he is appreciated for his work as foreign minister and seems ‘cleaner’ than businessman Vlad Filat, who became a politician and bears a number of ‘stigmas’. The promotion of Iurie Leanca, including as a candidate for the future post of Prime Minister, seems a natural move for the PLDM, but this thing should be done reasonable so as not to fully shadow Vlad Filat, who remains the party’s leader and should remain at least the equal of Iurie Leanca in terms of promotion.

The European integration is the PLDM’s fiefdom

Despite the scandals in which they were involved, the Lib-Dems have a great advantage: through Vlad Filat and Iurie Leanca they headed the Cabinet and through Iurie Leanca and Natalia Gherman they managed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Consequently, they can claim such accomplishments as the signing of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union and the liberalization of the visa regime with the EU. These are probably the most important and spectacular achievements of the government and the PLDM can fully capitalize on them. The Lib-Dems used this advantage in their campaign slogan, which says: “Together towards a European future!”. This slogan was well chosen. No matter how important the accords signed with the EU are, they cannot produce results immediately. The PLDM is aware of this and must educate the voters in this respect. Thus, it puts emphasis on ‘towards’ and ‘future’.

The ministers of the PDM, like those of transport, economy and of labor, social protection and family, by their work, affect the people directly, but the accomplishments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are felt indirectly by the people (except for the visa-free regime). The financing coming from the EU and the loans from the EIB and the EBRD are often used by other ministries ultimately. However, given that the PDM and PLDM chose an ‘electoral specialization’ tactic, the Lib-Dems can use the European integration subject as their fief. The other parties that can challenge the PLDM’ hegemony on this area are the Liberal Reformist Party (PLR), which is witnessing a split and does not have much influence at the moment, and the Liberal Party (PL), which has been in the opposition over the last few months.

What does ‘European future’ mean?

The first video clip of the PLDM starts with a powerful stress on the future: a mother who rocks her daughter in a swing, a young man near his girlfriend or mate, a farmer who is welcomed by his son returning from somewhere, possibly from abroad, and a couple looking at their son or daughter dancing at the wedding. All these characters are aimed at causing empathy in different social categories of people who can identify themselves with the protagonists of the video. Like the second video of the PDM, this video is more successful because the characters not only speak before the camera, but are also engaged in life situations.

In every case, the protagonists put a rhetorical question which they answer themselves - “The future of my child? A happy life in safety” says a mother. It is a question and an answer with which probably all the parents sympathize. ‘Safety’ can be probably interpreted as a subtle reference to the Ministry of the Interior managed by the PLDM. “What I want after graduation? A European future. To travel freely all over the world and to work here, at home,” says the young man. The reference to the liberalization of the visa regime with the EU, Turkey and Israel is evident.

For his part, the farmer asks, looking at the harvest: “What do we work for? For decent life, for a European future”. This formulation, as in the case of the young man, has an educative tone: “we travel, but return home” in one case and “we work for the future” in the other case. The farmer is presented because the minister of agriculture also represents the PLDM, but the choice is a risky one: namely the apple producers were the most seriously affected by the ban imposed by Russia, which was presented by the Government itself as a consequence (punishment) of the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU. Even if the message is designed to encourage the producers, the fact that the apples get frozen on trees can make the apple growers look with skepticism or even with irritation at this scene.

“What do we want most of all? Peace, love and peace” says the couple admiring their son or daughter dancing at the wedding. It is a natural answer for a couple that already achieved their goals in life: are well dressed, their financial situation is satisfactory and are accomplished as parents because they saw their child getting married.

In the middle of the video, Vlad Filat intervenes and sums up the aspirations of the protagonists and assures the viewers that “concrete steps were taken in this direction: today we travel freely in Europe, signed the Association Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement with the EU. One more step is yet to be taken – to build the European future of our children. Let’s move Moldova on!”. Which is this last step? It can be the status of EU member or the vote for the PLDM. For the people, these things should coincide: the step that the voters can take is to vote for the PLDM, and the consequence will be that the PLDM will integrate Moldova into the EU. The video is made in vivid, intense colors, the music is moderately triumphant, while the characters are active and smiling. This combination is aimed at inducing optimism and confidence in the viewers: Europe is close.

Education reform – a sword with two blades

The second video clip of the Liberal-Democrats lays emphasis on the education reform implemented by the Ministry of Education, which is managed also by the PLDM. It is a subject that divides opinions: many accept the necessity of the reform initiated by Minister Maia Sandu, but the parents of children who failed the Baccalaureate exams and those from villages where schools were closed do not approve of it. However, namely for this reason the PLDM has to focus more on this segment: if the votes of those who oppose the reform are given to someone else, they can at least count on the votes of those who support this step. The video starts provokingly, with a rhetorical question “Will you trust a doctor, a driver or an engineer who, instead of learning, paid in the exams? Definitely no!”. The fact that the question is followed by an answer points to the educative character of the PLDM’s publicity in parts.

By images, reference is made to the consolidation of schools: the children are taken to the school from the neighboring village by a minibus. The solution to the complaints of many parents from villages about the closure of the smaller local schools and the need to send the children to another settlement are presented visually. The image is not intended for these parents (who ultimately send their children to school daily and know better how good or bad it is), but rather for those who are not directly affected by this matter, but are concerned or care because of civic sprit or social solidarity.

The Lib-Dems realize the risks of this reform and admit it in the video: “The PLDM assumed the most courageous reform – the education reform – so that Moldova grows a generation of wise and trained people respected all over the world”. It is the second motivation for the reform provided in the video (the first is the question if the viewers will trust a doctor who bought the grades in the exam). It is a statement referring to an issue that is sensitive for many of the Moldovans: the respect. Besides hospitality, there are no other qualities for which the Moldovans are known in the world. They are known rather for top positions in rankings by alcohol consumption and for the fact that they migrate to Russia and Italy to do unskilled and semi-skilled work. The PLDM assures the voters that at least their children will be respected all over the world and will be regarded as educated and competent people, not as unskilled workers from a poor country.

The children from the video are all smiling and are dressed in new clothes. They are active and the succeeding images create the idea of dynamism. The video banks on the fact that this is how the parents want to see their children.

Green’ policemen

The third video clip  of the PLDM centers on another reform done by the PLDM’s minister – the police reform. The protagonists of the video are ordinary people who present or underline different aspects of the reform. The first is a young man who tells us happily that the angry border guard who suspects you of different evil things was replaced by a ‘civilized policeman’. The border guard is indeed a negative character in the collective mind and very many Moldovans faced him: the Lib-Dems count on the fact that the viewers will share the young man’s attitude, especially now that they can travel freely and will have to meet with the border police more often. The fact that the first scene of the video takes place at the airport is an indirect reference to the liberalization of the visa regime.

The next character is a driver who commends the traffic surveillance system owing to which they no longer have to pay bribe. It is again a problem with which many Moldovans met repeatedly and the PLDM claims that it solved it, at least partially. A man in the video says the new police officer in their village is a wise young man who can maintain order in the village and the people respect him. The policeman is a character that, by his post, is closer to the people than many other public functionaries and he is rather important for the community, while the improvement in the image of the local police can be felt by the people directly.

In general, this video clip focuses on situations and characters that are met often by the voters and that are associated especially with negative stereotypes, while the PLDM, by the police reform, pledges to eliminate such situations and to replace the negative characters.

Offensive by defensive

The Liberal-Democrats have a rather difficult mission: their great accomplishments have short-term negative effects and include small sacrifices that the Government and the people must do.  For example, the signing of the Association Agreement was followed by the imposition of a ban by Russia, while the education reform caused the dissatisfaction of many parents. Thus, the PLDM has to not only promote itself by presenting the achieved results, but to also promote and defend its accomplishments. This is why the videos are educative in parts. The problem is that it is harder to do this by posters. However, the Lib-Dems bank on the fact that the voters will see the videos. Some of the posters contain scenes from the videos and can bring back memories: seeing only the scene, the voters will remember the whole video.

The PLDM also benefits from recognition in the campaign owing to the green color and its emblem – the oak tree, which is the symbol of force, resistance and vigorousness that is deep rooted in the collective memory by such images as the oak tree of Ruler Stephan the Great, while on some of the posters these elements are accompanied by the European flag that is integrated into the symbols of the party. The people know and recognize these images and the Lib-Deems exploit this fact by their outdoor publicity. Another advantage that should not be neglected is the PLDM’s considerable budget, comparable only with the PDM’s budget, which allows the party to place many and different electoral posters.

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. Earlier, IPN made an analysis of the electoral publicity of the Democratic Party, which was published on November 6 and of the Christian Democratic People’s Party, which was published on November 7.

Eugen Muravschi, IPN

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