Bribes, boards, advertising: How much does love of voters cost in local elections 2020?

Author : Anna Peshkova

Source : 112 Ukraine

There is a little less than a month before the start of the local election campaign, but headquarters are already being established, investors are coming up, and the streets are full of campaign boards.
22:04, 18 August 2020

Local elections in Ukraine

Political scientists unanimously say: this year the winner takes it all. The process of decentralization came into force - and the importance of local self-government increased dramatically. The amount at stake is much higher than before. Because there is something to fight for, the battle may be more intense than it was in 2015 and campaigning costs may be higher. The methods of struggle can also change, because the responsibility for "buying up" votes increases. The Verkhovna Rada changed the rules, so to speak, from the wheels - just a few weeks before the start.

It is believed that it is incorrect to look into someone else's pocket, but we are talking not only about the candidates 'money, but also about the funds of our compatriots who make contributions to the parties' fund. How much will the campaign cost the politicians? Let's count together.

The stakes are high

After the last election campaign, the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, declared spending of $ 1.5 million. Political technologist Andriy Yeremenko, commenting on the prices for candidates for mayor, names the media completely different amounts. For the capital, according to him, $ 7 million is needed, $ 4-5 million - for the Dnipro, $ 5-7 million - for Kharkiv.

This time, according to the head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine Oleksiy Koshel, the costs will be lower than in 2015. He suggests candidates will spend up to $ 72 million in total.

"The cost of these elections, of course, will be traditionally high. But in total this year they will still spend less because of the coronavirus factor: some of the technologies have already migrated to the network, and online they are much cheaper," says Koshel.

So far, the struggle for votes cannot really be called fierce. Despite the fact that the number of administrative-territorial units has decreased due to centralization, it is likely that fewer competitors will participate in the current elections. And the campaign itself began a little later than in 2015. Although we are now seeing a false start, the last time the candidates were even more proactive.

"The country is getting poorer, shallower, and along with it the political struggle becomes shallower. I think these elections will resemble a sprint. Candidates will try to invest in their PR maximum in September-October to conduct a short and bright campaign after Independence Day. Of course, they should have started earlier, but many do not have enough resources for this, "emphasizes political strategist Ruslan Bortnyk.

At the same time, individual election campaigns will be much more expensive than in 2015. In connection with decentralization, the struggle for places in regional territorial communities, and not in districts, is much more significant: there will be real power. Regional councils are now more about coordination than about real power.

"If earlier the main battles unfolded around large regional centers - Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, today they will be small territorial districts. Local authorities will not spare money to control, "Koshel emphasizes.

Much will depend on the region over which the battle is unfolding: their funding may differ dozens of times. Interested persons will be ready to buy whole lots. According to Koshel, approximate prices for a small local district are around $ 50,000.

Social media instead of flyers

This election campaign differs from the 2015 campaign, primarily in the impact of the coronavirus quarantine. The political experts and political strategists we interviewed unanimously say that the main trend is a decrease in the role of field campaigns. Less money will be spent on tents, door-to-door campaigning, leaflets.

The point here is not efficiency or inefficiency, but the fact that communication between people in conditions of a massive threat to health is minimized. Although, of course, they will not completely abandon such methods, and the prices for the work of agitators themselves will not decrease.

"There are also cheaper ways of PR on the Internet, which PR specialists have adapted to during the quarantine. Black advertising in Telegram is cheap, modern and very simple. And you no longer need expensive boards or leaflets, which are dangerous to distribute because of the coronavirus. The "tent" campaign will be much more modest, "says Koshel.

The role of not only "black" advertising on the phone has increased. Experts say that this time the cost of political advertising on Facebook and Instagram began to rise since March. Many candidates have long been successfully developing their personal brand even in the absence of significant financial resources.Even if specially trained people are paid for regularly filling pages, answering and “cleaning up” negative comments, the voter does not always understand this.

However, social networks can also cost decent money. Analysts of the Opora network wrote that in July alone, Ukrainian politicians spent 300 thousand dollars on advertising in social networks. Customers are primarily focused on women in the 55 to 64 age category, and among men, 35 to 44 years. Advertising for one political post costs an average of about $ 100. And how many posts to advertise is already as you wish.

In "online" politicians will traditionally spend money on hidden advertising in journalistic articles. On average, political material costs about $ 800, but it all depends on the scale of the order. For large and high-quality material, the margin can range from one thousand to five thousand dollars.

Not all media outlets will agree to post this or that information, even for that kind of money, if it is untrue or not verified. But on "garbage sites" that are not particularly reliable, such articles are posted for $ 100. It is difficult to calculate the costs for this item: everything depends only on the fanaticism of the politician. Just 5 good materials can have a significant impact on the balance of power.

However, the political strategist Dmytro Fishchenko does not believe that the Internet can effectively replace the time-tested "tents".

“Everyone has forgotten how to work in the field, they are trying to get into the Internet. It gives something if a voter has already seen an advertisement of one of the candidates and is looking for information about him. But I cannot imagine that a voter is looking for someone on the Internet to vote for. The only thing that works in local elections is a newspaper and street advertising, "he disagrees.

Advertising sh*t

Now, 3 months before the elections, we are witnessing a massive false start, which cannot be said, for example, about advertising on television. It is believed that the more billboards you rent, the higher your chances of winning. Political analysts say that the liquidation of 150 boards in Dnipro was not due to illegal installation, but for the sake of redistributing control over advertising space for local elections.

But this idea of ​​the "formula for success" is not entirely correct. Basically, boards are needed to increase awareness and for 9 out of 10 candidates are practically meaningless. The "servants of the people", for example, have a high enough recognition. According to Andriy Miselyuk, director of the Dialogue Institute for Socio-Political Design, the effect of the purchase of a large number of boards by a party may be the opposite.

Campaigning at the local level, first of all, takes place at the expense of reputation and biography. The experience of a candidate is important, for example, managing an enterprise, achieving it for the good of the people. Promises to do something in the future practically do not work, so the candidates will take exams "at the expense of the record book." In these elections, the voter will vote not for a party, but for those who are able to solve economic issues locally and understand the specifics of local processes. Usually these are not "new faces". Even the old managers have high chances. And they don't really need boards.

However, the candidates do not care. In the last elections, every second advertising space had political content. And it would be fine if the advertising was really high quality. This year we even see the repetition of some old slogans: it seems that candidates are counting on a short voter memory.

In theory, thanks to the adoption of the new Electoral Code, the pre-election buckwheat and other delights should have sunk into oblivion: the phenomenon of bribery is regulated by large fines. Experts suggest that illegal methods will be practiced less frequently this time, and the role of "pure" media PR campaigns will increase. But some activity will continue. The problem is not only in the electoral legislation, but also in law enforcement agencies. Only a few successful cases have been considered in the courts for the entire time.

Therefore, the technology of "good deeds" this time will remain traditional. If we open the party sites, we will see news about painted playgrounds and football championships held, about the presentation of awards to the best students with cash payments. The "Party of Shariy", which has a fairly young target audience, has similar methods. In fact, all this is legal and is not considered agitation until the politicians are registered on the lists.

Until the registration of a party in the elections, in fact, it is legal: there is no need to report on expenses. But even after the moment of registration, it is very difficult to ban charity, especially if it is carried out not on behalf of a politician, but from a charitable foundation with his name in the name. Formally, the candidate has nothing to do with it.

There are other expenses that are extremely difficult to calculate. Politicians sin with love for sociological polls, in which the rating of some of the candidates is "written over", and are not afraid to throw funds on them.

“It's hard to tell the customer: “ you are a moron, you have to do everything differently. ”Sociologists have learned to do polls in such a way as to please the customer and at the same time not violate ethical standards. The customer asks: show a drop in the rating of another candidate. But this candidate does not have a rating falls: the level of voters' confidence is declining. These data are provided by the sociologist. Everyone is happy: both the executor who received his money, and the customer, who only strengthened his delusions. A vivid example: in 2002, Tymoshenko said that she would pay more to the sociologist whose rating she likes the most. So she continues to receive her colorful pictures and lose, "says Fischenko.

In addition to spending on sociological polls, illegal additional payments to members of election commissions are also possible. The expenses for the election campaign were cut 2.5 times this year. The deputy head of the Servant of the People faction believes that there will be enough money only to print ballots, but not to pay for the work of members of election commissions. Against the background of the situation on cutting costs, it is possible that representatives of different parties "add" money.

According to our calculations, the expenses of the "Servant of the People", subject to a completely legal campaign (advertising on television, boards and social networks) this year may exceed $ 8 million. Although officially at the parliamentary elections, the party reported less than 4 million. So far, it is very difficult to talk about the final amounts: you should wait until the end of autumn.

In Servant of the People, they said that sponsors "are ready to donate to the party fund so that the party recruits new faces." Of course, it is not a fact that pensioner Lydia Stepanivna will transfer the necessary funds, and not some oligarch.

It doesn't matter - eight million or one - the costs of advertising and campaigning, they do not guarantee success. According to the Ukrainian Institute for Policy Analysis and Management, representatives of the mono-majority party do not win in any of the regional centers. There is general relativity where they compete, but they have no advantages. The same applies to regional councils, in which they may find themselves in opposition. In these elections, the regional elites have more chances. And no advertising can fix this, especially mediocre ones.

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