Turkish Political Campaigning Enters the 20th Century

Spending 80 million YTL in public funds for rallies, flags and posters? That's how the CHP, the leading secular party in Turkey, plans to allocate its resources this election, according to the Turkish Daily News.

It's hard to know where to start describing everything that's wrong with that approach. As a noted opponent of rallies and posters of party leadership as a political communications strategy, I hope they have simply decided to tell a reporter that they plan to do all these ineffective, wasteful activities, so they could keep their real plans under wraps. Why else would they reveal their strategy to a reporter?

Rallies do nothing but make your base feel good. They organize no one, they persuade no one and are huge drains of time and resources that could be better spent organizing and communicating with swing voters. If my party was in the low double digits, I might spend more time identifying messages that persuade people sitting on the fence to support me. Flags don't do that. Buttons don't do that.

I am not privy to the AKP's plan, but their political behavior, ranging from calling early elections to the banners "He's still got a lot of work to do" I see hanging around town, suggests they use strategic polling to guide their activities. That message is appropriate for an incumbent party that has concrete accomplishments to point to. It provides a concrete rationale for voters to stick with the incumbent. Turkish voters are no different than voters anywhere else in the world: they want to know what a party is going to do for them personally. AKP's message assumes that voters want more of what they've been doing.

Another TDN article describes what happened when a woman reporter approached different party branches inquiring about how to get involved in the campaign. It's less revealing about the parties' efforts to engage women than their general approach to organizing, period.