Global Partners Governance, a leading U.K. consultancy, stands out for its deep and clear thinking. https://gpgovernance.net
Their 2014 report on a survey conducted in Egypt provides an example of good and useful research. The authors were:
Mohammed el-Agati Nick Sigler
Nick Harvey MP
Poll study by Sobhy Essaila
Greg Power, the founder of GPG, wrote a forward . The following passages from his Challenges for political parties in transitional elections – organisation, policies and identity
explain the “challenges” faced by all political parties. Opposition International addresses its outreach more narrowly to Opposition parties, who are the most challenged.
I copy a selection of passages to remind myself to check whether OI’s actions follow the good advice.
“Political parties play a vital role in determining the quality of any political system. They are the principal vehicles for representing and articulating public concerns, and at elections are the main way of offering voters a choice as to what the state should look like, and what it should provide to citizens. The organisation, effectiveness and policies of the political parties will go a long way to determining the wider political culture, and the way in which different sections of society engage with each other. Yet, despite their critical role, political parties are amongst the least trusted institutions in most parts of the world. Political parties, it seems, need to work harder to convince the public that they understand, and can provide the solutions to, the problems which citizens face.
Two key findings of the poll should be at the forefront of the parties’ thinking. First, despite disillusion, two thirds of the respondents stated that they were willing to accept the result, regardless of who won a majority. Second, more than two-thirds still have not decided who they will vote for.
In other words, the poll suggests that the people will give the majority party (or parties) a mandate, and the parties have scope to distinguish themselves in the public mind. All of the parties have the opportunity to maximise their votes if they can convince the public they are capable and organised, with a clear and distinct set of policy proposals.
But the political parties face three significant challenges between now and the election campaign around organisation, policy and identity.
First, is the challenge of organisation. New political parties, in particular, face the most basic of organisational challenges, and often have very few resources with which to manage these difficulties. Simply recruiting members, building databases and identifying reliable candidates is a time-consuming and laborious task. And this is before the party starts to set up its internal structures, decide policy, build an election manifesto, identify potential supporters and then start campaigning in earnest.
Yet, these tasks are fundamental to convincing voters. The poll shows that the public has very little confidence in any of the political parties to form a government and most people believe that the parties have little capacity to influence the political situation. A party that can convince the public that it is organised, efficient and can deliver on its promises is likely to win more votes.
Second, is the challenge of policy. The political parties need to be clear, not only about what they stand for, but which policies reflect those core beliefs. More importantly, those policies need to mean something to the public. They need to be rooted in an understanding of the public’s concerns. Here political parties with many members have an immediate advantage in that, first, the membership provides a sense of what is in the public mind and, second, offer an internal test as to whether the parties’ programme is likely to convince voters….
Third is the challenge of identity. Apart from parties such as [strict Islamist parties], the poll suggests that people found it difficult to distinguish between many of the other parties, and as a result depended on other factors to determine which way they voted.
It is clear that most of the political parties have policies on many of the key issues, but the bigger challenge is in a) getting the public to understand those policies, b) explaining how they differ from those of the other parties, and c) convincing the public that they will actually work. The lack of public faith in party policies reflects the deeper problem that the people simply do not believe what most of the parties say they can do.
Conclusion – Campaigns [ought to be] based on distinctive and realistic policies.
Its is clear that people want parties that are efficient, well- organised and to have a set of policies which they believe will address the country’s concerns. It is also clear that the political parties could be more astute in the way that they campaign and how they differentiate themselves from others.
Perhaps more importantly though, the parties need to convince the public that they are competent. Looking at the poll findings it would be tempting to develop a comprehensive set of policies to deal with every problem in Egypt. But the poll shows that the people don’t believe the parties will deliver.
The job of political parties is not just to respond to public opinion, but also to lead and shape expectations of what is realistic. Parties need to be honest with voters that deep-seated structural problems will take time to solve, and the ability of the parties to manage them is limited.
A party that makes modest campaign commitments, but which look more achievable, will distinguish the party from others, and increase its chances of winning votes. Serious political parties are judged less by what they do during election campaigns, than what they do between those campaigns. A political party that makes realistic campaign promises, and sticks to them while in parliament, is likely to secure a long-term future…”