HARARE – Zimbabwe has a busy election calendar going into general elections mid next year.
Thousands of Zimbabweans will seek elective office next year, running for municipal, legislative, and presidential posts.
Few opposition parties have access to the financial resources needed to campaign, produce and air commercials. Even long-standing incumbents in legislative and municipal posts are often unknown to a majority of their constituents.
Elsewhere in this edition, we report MDC president Welshman Ncube calling for a united opposition front in voter mobilisation programmes ahead of the 2018 watershed elections.
Ncube is right, the opposition need to work together and unite to get rid of Zanu PF once and for all. Like he rightly pointed out, if there is one thing learnt from the last election, it is that there is no one person or party that will be able to remove President Robert Mugabe on their own.
In order to reach large and geographically dispersed populations, the voter mobilisation campaign often places enormous emphasis on resources to bankroll mass communications and advertising.
A lot of money is needed to highlight the importance of these races, the issues at stake and the attributes of the candidates. The typical election tends to be waged on a smaller scale and at a more personal level.
The challenge that confronts all opposition parties in elections is to target potential supporters and get them to the polls, while living within the constraints of a tight campaign budget.
The run-up to the election has seen a hotchpotch of campaigns, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC has been conducting the #berekamwana voter mobilisation campaign while Ncube’s party is currently involved in the #nyoresazvifaye or #valangebhetshu campaigns — using personal contact with voters to mobilise hundreds of youths to vote.
A personal approach to mobilising voters is generally more effective than an impersonal approach. That is, the more personal the interaction between campaign and potential voter, the more it raises a person’s chances of voting. Door-to-door canvassing by friends and neighbours is the gold-standard mobilisation tactic.
Making scarce campaign dollars go as far as possible requires those who manage these campaigns to think hard about the trade-offs. As election day approaches and campaigns move into top gear, the opposition parties’ aims become quite similar and their purposes very narrow.
Ahead of the election, they are all homing in on one simple task — to get their people to the polls. Each campaign struggles with the same basic question: How should remaining resources be allocated in order to turn out the largest number of targeted voters?
That is why Ncube’s call is important. Talk to economies of scale.