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.
Crisis of reformists
The Liberal Reformist Party (PLR) is going through a tumultuous period. After defecting from the Liberal Party (PL), the PLR should have enjoyed stability and should have governed the country as a member of the Pro-European Coalition. However, for different reasons that are not the goal of this analysis, the PLR started to witness defections at all its levels: from the administration to the local organizations. The PLR’s relations with the coalition partners worsened. In its election campaign, the PLR seems to act in open opposition to the coalition partners – the Democratic Party (PDM) and the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) by the slogan “For Moldova without oligarchs!”. By the word ‘oligarchs’ it evidently makes reference to the leader of the PLDM Vlad Filat and the first deputy chairman of the PDM Vlad Plahotniuc.
The Liberal-Reformists seem to have counted a lot on Ion Sturza joining the party, but the failure of the negotiations with the former Premier left the party without a leader. The party’s chairman Ion Hadarca, with all his merits and experience, does not have the vitality needed to be the party’s image. Furthermore, he is a politician known since the period of the national liberation movement and does not bring a breath of air on the political arena, as the PLR needs. The lack of a powerful leader resulted in internal conflicts and misunderstandings that ultimately led to the leaving of a number of members. This fact seriously affected the party’s image: the PLR seems to be lacking force, power, internal stability and seems to be disoriented.
The electoral slogan reveals a kind of desolation that tries to be hidden by the first part – “For Moldova!”. It lacks originality, conviction and exactness. In another context, maybe a more dramatic one at internal level as in 2009 or at least closer to the short ‘war’ between the PDM and PLDM, such a slogan could have channeled the energies and tensions in society. But the current election campaign is rather clam and peaceful, and even boring for some, and this slogan lacks ‘fuel’. The second part of the slogan - “without oligarchs” – is designed to exploit the accusations made against Vlad Plahotniuc and Vlad Filat in the hope that the PLR can attract the votes of the pro-Europeans disappointed in the PDM and PLDM, but this move makes the PLR to drift. The Reformists left the PL namely because they wanted the government coalition to be kept, while the PL moved to the opposition. Regretfully for them, the Liberal-Reformists didn’t manage to efficiently exploit their contribution to maintaining the pro-European coalition and now take a position similar to that of their former Liberal colleagues.
The message is negative (anti-somebody) and this fact cannot attract many new votes. A negative message works well when the party has a powerful electoral basis that it can strengthen and mobilize or at least when it has a powerful leader and a clear positive message that would accompany this negative message like its pole. In such a form, the PLR’s message is like a magnet with one pole: does not work.
A bad video clip
The first video clip of the PLR was a temporary one that was used until the second clip was made. But this fact does not pardon its poor quality. It is practically a video collage with fragments of speeches given after the party began its election campaign. The image is bad, the sound is even worse, while direction and script, as Caragiale said, are sublime, but are missing completely. “Vote for No. 5, for Moldova, not for oligarchs! We are the team of the future!”, the PLR’s chairman Ion Hadarca says in the first fragment. He is not the most suitable member of the team to speak about the ‘team of the future’. The leader of the youth organization or, even better, a young specialists or politician whom the PLR would ‘discover’ and promote would have been more appropriate.
Hadarca is followed by Oleg Bodrug, who speaks about the over 25,000 members of the PLR who are ‘loyal to the national interest’. This devotion that lacks yet other qualities such as competence in particular areas resembles the situation of the 1990s, when it was believed that patriotism is enough for governing the country. The ordinary people learned that lesson and cannot be convinced this way, while the figure 25,000 is not so impressive. The next fragment of speech, which is probably the best of this collage, especially owing to the energy of the speaker, is that of Valeriu Beril. His speech is simultaneously defensive and offensive: “We are not thieves, we are not corrupt, we are not oligarchs, we are not smugglers”. Each of the ‘no’ determiners is indirectly an accusation against the former coalition partners. The last fragment gives a positive note to the message, especially after the ‘no’ determiners’ of Valeriu Beril: Tatiana Potang assures the voters that this time they do not have to vote for the ‘smallest evil’ because there is now the PLR. The message is not bad, but the poor quality of the video clip diminishes its effectiveness.
Neither puppeteers, nor puppets
The second video clip is much better than the first. Near the Triumphal Arch – and this place was chosen symbolically - Ion Hadarca says: “We are neither puppeteers nor puppets controlled by them”. The essence of this clip and of the whole campaign of the Reformists is that they are different - more honest, cleaner and not involved in the businesses of the ruling partners. However, as we mentioned earlier, the PLR will have to fight against the PL as it has a similar message with it. At the same time, the PL has consolidated party bodies, a stable electoral basis and powerful leaders.
“They rob the country! Control the justice system! Smuggle contraband” says Hadarca in continuation while cutting the strings attached to two puppets representing Vlad Filat and Vlad Plahotniuc. Visually, the idea with the puppets is rather good. It is a video clip that attracts attention because it is slightly different from the rest. The puppets have a symbolic value and even bring a note of humor, which is not yet exploited by the other elements of the video.
“We will stop them. With your vote! We are the Reformists and we struggle for a Moldova without oligarchs!”. The idea is clear: the others are corrupt, but we will root out corruption if you vote for us. A problem appears yet: who is really the target public of the PLR? The party is a pro-European one and evidently targets the voters with pro-European views. But an openly hostile attitude towards the other pro-European parties questions their capacity to form a coalition with them and to thus continue the country’s European course. The voters want to know what will happen with their votes further and what will those for whom they voted do. But in the case of the PLR, the voters are faced with a dilemma: “they are pro-Europeans, but are against those with whom they will have to form a pro-European collation if they enter Parliament”. It is a scenario similar to the gesture of the PL, which, having a ruling vote, withdrew to the opposition, or to that of the Democratic Parliament headed by Alexandru Mosanu which renounced the mandate given to them by the people.
The video clip ends with a fixed image that can be seen on posters in Chisinau too. The image is good, but lasts too long. It takes not less than 8 seconds! At least half of these 8 seconds could have definitely been used better at a time when the advertisements on TV cost a lot and should thus convey a more comprehensive message and tell a more complex story than the posters seen on the streets.
The PLR’s posters are probably the best element of its publicity: a pleasant blue background, which is different from the PDM’s blue, on which there it is written the slogan that occupies almost half of the poster, alongside the emblem and the name of the party. The emblem has been a subject for discussion since the launch of the party’s campaign: the pro-European eagle of the PLR is flying to the east. It is a small mistake that allowed some to put down the party. However, it is a good emblem that combines a modern design with an older, but yet topical tactic – the necessity of identifying the party with a clear symbol. The PDM has roses, the PLDM – the oak tree, the Communist Party – the hammer and sickle, the People’s Party – the apple, while the PLR’s emblem can be interpreted as “Vote for the eagle!”. In general, the chromatic scale and the thick fonts suggest power and vigor. The posters are actually better than the video clips in terms of quality. Regretfully, until the PLR does not present new vide clips to go with the posters and an appropriate message, it remains yet unconvincing in its campaign.
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, of the Christian Democratic People’s Party, which was published on November 7 and of the Liberal Democratic Party, which was published on November 10.
Eugen Muravschi, IPN