In early January, parliamentary elections were held in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Right on the eve of the elections, Nazim Beratli, Associate Professor at Girne American University and a columnist for the leading local newspaper Kibris Postasi, published an article about the campaign process. The article is noteworthy as, at the time of overwhelming enthusiasm for social networks and appeals to focus on their exclusive use while simultaneously emphasizing their decisive role, it highlights the importance of remembering to work “on the ground”, directly with the electorate.
“I think we cannot but agree about the growing importance of Facebook and other social networks both during election campaigns and in connection with advertising in general,” commented Nazim Beratli in an interview with Europe Insight. According to him, “liberal economy has turned everything, including things connected with politics and elections, into a commodity and has led to the advancement of promotional tools”.
Nazim Beratli is, however, convinced that politics has remained a very specific realm where the desired outcome cannot be ensured through social networks alone. But then again, he adds, this is first and foremost applicable to societies that did not evolve within Western European tradition and where, in his words, “moral codes” are different.
– And how did the idea of the article come about? Did it result from the observation of the current campaign or are you challenging the global trend as a whole?
– It came as a result of observation. I’m not against innovations. But when someone breaks a direct connection between voters and politicians, the world does not benefit from this”.
– Do you think that the significance of “field work” is unique to the Cyprus communities?
– There is nothing new in working with voters. But this is exactly what constitutes the most important component of politics. Working “on the ground” is of decisive importance. There are other means (social networks, advertising), of course, which can be effective – but not decisive.
– So, does this pertain to the southern part of Cyprus as well?
– I know things are the same there.
– And what about other countries? Does the appeal from your article apply to other countries?
– We must realize that the Western European culture is not omnipresent. It has its own peculiarities, viewpoints, origins, and history. The Western European behavior has born the imprint of historical and cultural causes since the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Peace of Westphalia, and other documents of the Enlightenment; a profound effect of Christianity can also be noted. It is illogical to expect that other societies lacking such experience and values would demonstrate similar behavior. Therefore, I do not believe in universal recipes that can be used in any part of the world.
But what matters most is that political success depends on the organization [at a local level]. Engaging the electorate, without feeling them and without letting them feel their candidate, is a difficult task in any part of the world. Recall John F. Kennedy’s famous presidential campaign. Social networks are useful, but not much else.