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12 Oct 2022, 0000 hrs

Election Campaigning in Times of Crises

The past two years of COVID-19 pandemic has been considered as the “true crisis of the 21st-century”. This crisis has exposed both the strengths and weaknesses of different political regimes, but what remains steadfast is the resolve of governments, parties, politicians, and the people to continually seek fresh and strong legitimacy in governing the public, more so in solving these crises. This panel will look deeper on how certain issues influenced campaigns such as the impact of the pandemic, geopolitical ramifications, growing economic inequality, increased political polarization, and infighting within political parties.

By Rio Tuasikal

Political campaigning continues to be challenged by various crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the crisis of trust, and political parties had to adapt, several experts said at the Asian Conference for Political Communication 2022.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many political parties turned to the digital terrain to campaign, Malou Tiquia of PUBLiCAS Asia Inc, Philippines, said, noting that parties had to remember their audience in selecting which digital platform to use. 

“Determine who you are trying to address. Are you communicating with older voters or younger ones? Communication planning, positioning, framing, writing, and the message, are very important,” said Tiquias during the “Election Campaigning in Times of Crises” session held at St. Regis Hotel in Singapore on 12 October 2022.

Sagun Sunder Lawoti of Nepal’s Rastriya Prajatantra Party said that since a big portion of Nepal’s population is young, “the use of social media cannot be ignored.” 

In Nepal, Facebook is the most popular, and younger voters use Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok, he said.

A political party needs to also organise, Charu Pragya of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said.

“During the last election, political parties could not conduct offline campaign and had to rely on digital platforms,” she said, noting that before the pandemic, her party already had a strong internal structure that would disseminate information from the national level, state level, all the way to the grassroots.

“That came in handy when the pandemic hit. Our party was able to engage virtually with millions of Indians during the campaign period,” she explained. 

In terms of handling the audience’s declining trust, Simon Berger of Australia’s Liberal Party emphasised the importance of having a clear message: “Get a clear message, and stick to it, keep it simple. Just focus on the clear message and with every platform you have, try to reinforce it.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Stefan Hennewig of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) highlighted the importance of politicians being consistent with their party’s messaging. 

“If a candidate tweets something not aligned with a message control, “that’s a step from a campaign to a crisis,” he stated. 

The panel is part of the ACPC22 held in Singapore on 12-13 October, hosted by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Media Programme Asia. The biggest gathering of political communication experts that brought together 220 participants from 40 countries.

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Bharatiya Janata Party, India
PUBLiCAS Asia Inc, Philippines
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Political Dialogue Asia
Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Nepal
Liberal Party of Australia, Australia
Christian Democratic Union, Germany