Elections watch: campaigns short of substance

Toomas Mattson.

PHOTO: Artur Sadovski

EU elections watchmen say the main breach of good practice was emptiness and brinkmanship of campaigns – especially so by single candidate Indrek Tarand, IRL, and Reform Party.

As the vilest violation, the watchdogs pointed towards use of taxpayer money by Centre Party, and their rally to undermine trust towards e-elections. On the sunny side, they praised the transparency of lone campaigner Silver Meikar, direct contacts between candidates and voters across the land, and media platforms investing in deeper discussions.

The watchmen on the wall included: Anna Karolin, Urmo Kübar, Margo Loor, Ülle Madise, Toomas Mattson, and Sergei Metlev. In addition to listing the breaches of good election practice, this time they also painted a picture of what was positive.

Simplistic in styling

According to elections watchers, good practice prescribes that campaigns centre on the essential issues while avoiding intimidation.

«A media campaign should inspire thought about the message, not just hit people over the head with a spade – can’t anybody come up with anything witty, elegant, and cliché free?» asked Mr Mattson.

In their campaigns, IRL and Reform Party launched direct attack on the person of Edgar Savisaar. «To be anti-Estonia like that is surely deplorable; but please do it to the point and with arguments, not on the front page,» commented Ms Madise.

«Posters simplified to bare banality make the «debate» revolve around who of the politicians is the greatest threat to the Republic of Estonia, and who is willing to jump in the fire for Fatherland. That oversimplifies the entire election discussion and draws attention away from real problems and vital subjects, replacing these with symbols and slogans,» added Mr Metlev.

Shoot the opponent

Not better than the blatant brinkmanship and negativism, say watchdogs, were the various primitive hurray-type or one word posters. An especially sad case, they say, was Indrek Tarand.

«Early on, the polls showed lots of people keep supporting Mr Tarand, thus whatever he says/does has larger limelight. This, the candidate used to run a campaign messaging «energy class A candidate», «smart candidate for smart voter», and «I am Tarand, Indrek Tarand»,» noted Mr Loor.

Breach of good practice No 2, according to watcher, was the e-elections undermining campaign. Elections, they pointed out, is a vital element of trust and relationship between the state and the citizen.

Breach No 3 was use of public means by Centre Party – as public authority may not be abused.

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