The Road is bedecked in blue all the way to Galle. Riding in a bus on Saturday blue is all i noticed. It starts from Dehiwala; the new flyover is ostentatiously laid out with blue election stuff. And every single city down the stretch to Unawatuna is laid out in the royal color, its almost as if the opposition doesn’t exist.
A friend insists that the new Rs 1,000 is illegal election propaganda. And his argument is not easy to refute. These days, ATMs all over the country are spewing out the stuff to customers and bank tellers are handing them over counters. The incumbent is everywhere, on our bridges, by the sides of our roads, decorating bus stands, in our wallets, in our faces. I’ve heard about a giant cut out from a few terrified people, located somewhere in Colombo. I’m not too sure if i can take seeing it.
The challenger needs to up his game if he wants to stand a chance. Its like that Hebrew proverb Zack got tattooed on his arm; ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Voters are fickle creatures. And democracy, at least democracy in good ‘ol Lanka, is designed to benefit the loudest screamer. The most in-your-face guy grabs the confidence of the public; a matter of significance this time, since both candidates are contesting more or less on the same platforms.
The general doesn’t seem to have really started on his publicity campaign yet. All his initial efforts are being successfully undermined. Posters with his face on it are covered over in a matter of hours by an efficient publicity grease machine that presumably works for parties not in favor of him winning.
The opposition’s campaign is nowhere nearly as strong or effective as it should be in order for it to reach the average Sri Lankan and in order for it to have a share of voice which is, if not equal, at least reasonably noticeable in comparison to the president’s. I wonder who does their advertising.
A reason for their lackadaisical approach could be an inability to come up with something that will capture the hearts and minds of the people. Some phrase that dramatically simplifies the core message or selling point of the General. But i don’t think they have a core message let a lone a good slogan yet. They still haven’t managed to convey concretely why anyone should vote for Sarath Fonseka and not Mahinda Rajapakse. The suddenness of the election probably surprised them. Here they were, just negotiating their terms and bickering over the small print when bam! before you know it the game is on in five minutes and everyone’s gotta go and get changed.
They need to do a lot of thinking on the feet.
Add to that they may also be disadvantaged in terms of logistics. Sure, money may not be a problem, but access to suitable channels probably is. Key below the line advertising sites and TV airtime etc is all but monopolized by the incumbent. He is shouting loud right now and he’s been doing so for a long time. The Mahinda marketing machine is well oiled, its glitches have been ironed out through years of practice, its on a high after the war victory and is simply rearing to go.
It has taken the corner at 100km’s and whizzed past the starting point while the opposition is only now starting to turn the ignition on their’s. They’ll need one powerful engine and a hell of a driver of they want to catch up.