They’ll (all) be by our side
They will change, they will modernise, they will be our voice and our people, they will be by our side for 24 hours a day. Slogans are in full swing ahead of the elections. But what is left and how does it impact on voters? Sociologist Dr N. Peristianis is of the view that slogans, when meticulous and realistic, affect the voter positively, as opposed to communication expert A. Hadjikyriacos, who believes they are given too much weight, as they do not add even one vote.
The slogans used by existing MPs but also ambitious new politicians from all parties – except AKEL whose statute does not allow for personal promotion – are akin to promotional messages for products, only after the MPs are elected they cannot be… returned like products if it turns out they are not doing what they promised!
It would be a “dream come true” if at the same time we had… “one of our own” at the House, if we had someone “by our side when we need him”; if our MPs invited us to “plan the new future together” (even though we have not got a clue what the old one was); if we had “our own voice” at the House. Abstention would be minimal if with our vote we did in fact elect “combatant citizens”, “gain the Spring we deserve”, “change to the better”, “take a stance by giving continuation”. Our House would indeed be an example for other parliaments to follow, if we made a “choice of… value”, if we “change frequency”, if we told “only the truth” and “no more” to the status quo; if there was “modernisation and rejuvenation”, if “honour and experience” stood out. Namely, everything the candidates are promising us. Everything they promised us five years ago and ten years ago. Really, how much do slogans count for a candidate? How much do they count for voters when it’s time to cast their ballot?
Too much weight
Communication consultant Andreas Hadjikyriacos (it is noted that he is the managing director of Gnora, which has undertaken the communication strategy of DISY) believes candidates give too much weight to slogans, particularly when they are running with a party that has its own slogan. Mr Hadjikyriacos also notes how a slogan does not stick with the candidate, except in rare cases if it is something very clever. He then invited us to recall, not a slogan of a candidate MP from five years ago, but one of a candidate President of the Republic. Does the average voter really remember the slogan of Tassos Papadopoulos’ election campaign, even though he was elected in the first round, or previously that of Glafcos Clerides, or Mr Christofias’ eight years ago? As such, Mr Hadjikyriacos believes that a slogan does not add even one vote to candidate MPs; instead it can deduct votes if it is ambiguous or provocative. “The slogan will not bring in one preference cross, while you are at risk of deterring voters if it is controversial,” is the position of Mr Hadjikyriacos, who even referred to a sense of mimicry in slogans, both among candidates and among election campaigns.
No need for big words
In any case, from a sociological point of view, sociologist Dr Nicos Peristianis of the University of Nicosia believes the slogan has some weight as it compresses the characteristics of the product, or the service – or the individual in this case – that is being promoted in a campaign, into just a few words. “The slogan promoted by a candidate is supposed to recall, not create an impression from scratch, the characteristics which the voter should remember him by, in a condensed way,” Dr Peristianis explains. Therefore, he adds, it is not easy for a slogan to build an image for an individual who is not known to the public. “A candidate voting for a specific party would do well to remember an individual and a number”, he notes, giving Greek politician Stephanos Manos as an example, who was a travel agency owner and wanted to be elected MP. “He ran with the slogan ‘Put a tick on this number for Manos’,” Dr Peristianis explains, indicating a simple and practical way for a slogan to be prepared. “The formula for success for a candidate is for him to be measured,” he adds. Asked whether voters are tempted by slogans, he explains: “Yes, this could even be the case if the candidate belongs to a party; but they do also seek something new. And this is where candidates need to focus, especially new ones; to convince the public that they too, along with the older ones, deserve a vote.”
Dr Peristianis believes, however and here his views are in line with those of Mr Hadjikyriacos, that slogans must be realistic. “Those who come out with exaggerated slogans are often unknown to society. How can they convince you, if you don’t know them, that not only will they be elected they will also lead their party in a different direction?” he wonders. “Nowadays the public wants to hear measured and realistic words from politicians. It is fed up with big promises. It thinks they are a mockery. It will choose current MPs that it feels have been tried and tested, but also new names that however promise something small, that are a breath of fresh air, not a revolution,” he concludes.
Only the actual vote will decide the new parliament and will cash in on or… eat the slogans alive, leaving their inspirers exposed. Either way, the only candidate with nothing to worry about is DIKO’s Christiana Erotokritou, as her slogan is… “No more slogans!”
The… big slogans
The slogans chosen by the parties for their election campaigns are just as interesting. In contrast to those by many candidate MPs, the parties’ slogans appear to be moving more in line with the framework mentioned by Dr Peristianis and Mr Hadjikyriacos; realistic or in line with the demands of the party faithful. Ruling party DISY puts forward continuation with the slogan “Steady policy”, which was to be expected as any reference to change would have meant its own recipe had failed. AKEL is addressing voters with the slogan “You can make a difference”, while DIKO has to refer to Cyprus by name in its slogan, as the national issue is at the top of its agenda. “Cyprus first” is the slogan, while for some time now we have been seeing EDEK’s slogan on buses: “We defend the continuation of the RoC”. The Citizens Alliance addresses the citizens who experienced the crisis: “Time to stand on our own two feet”. “With solidarity we can”, is Ms Theocharous’ Solidarity Movement’s slogan. Finally, the Green Party, which polls have shown to be the most likeable party among voters, is asking for this to be validated: “Turn the likes into votes in the ballot box”.
Sociologist Dr Peristianis believes slogans, when meticulous and realistic, impact positively on voters, in contrast to communication expert A. Hadjikyriacos, who feels they are given too much weight.
The article was published in Politis, 27/04/2016. By Katia Savva.