"The tool kit of political communication is aligning itself."

E-lection Bridge Africa: Interview with Oliver Röseler

Also available in Deutsch

Oliver Röseler is much in demand: in political Berlin as well as in West Africa. The Director for Marketing and Communication at the CDU of Germany travelled to Ghana as a prominent speaker for the first KAS E-lection Bridge Africa conference – and was promptly asked for an improvised TV interview. So, the political expert is now patiently answering the reporter’s questions in a stairwell at a research institute on the edge of the capital city of Accra, which serves as a voting station for the primaries of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in greater Accra. On the topic of political communication, the native of Lower Saxony has a lot to say in the course of our conversation for the E-lection Bridge Africa.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: Mr, Röseler, the E-lection Bridge Africa began with a chunk of political praxis – with an informational visit to the primaries of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in greater Accra. How did you experience this process within the KAS’ partner party on location?

OLIVER RÖSELER: Honestly, I was really impressed! We visited three voting stations in different parts of the capital and in each location we met highly committed people. You could literally sense how proud they were to be taking part in something so important. This appreciation of the democratic opinion-building process really struck me. In Germany it seems to be taken for granted and is therefore sometimes stuck in a rut.

Oliver Röseler was born in 1969 in Gehrden, Lower Saxony. He gained experience in the field of politics from the ground up: While studying law at Bonn University, he was the Federal Chairman of the Ring of Christian Democratic Students (RCDS). He has worked as Director for Marketing and Communication at the CDU of Germany’s headquarters in Berlin since 2006. Between 1998 and 2009, Röseler took part in four parliamentary and several state election campaigns. At the international level, the family man represents the CDU as a delegate to the Campaign Manager’s Committee of the International Democratic Union (IDU).

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: The E-lection Bridge Africa is based on the realization that the election experts in Germany and the countries of Africa face similar questions and challenges. Is that really the case?

OLIVER RÖSELER: The central task is essentially the same: We all want to win votes, and majorities, with the help of political communication. That unifies us and we all noticed in Accra that the instruments for it are converging globally. On the other hand, what differentiates us is the general framework – legal, financial and political. Let me put it this way: the tool kit of political communication is aligning itself, but from it we choose different instruments. To stay with that metaphor: One uses the file, while another takes the saw.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: You have already worked for the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in several parts of the world. Now you have been one of the speakers at the founding event of the E-lection Bridge Africa – what is your impression?

OLIVER RÖSELER: I travelled to Ghana without any clear expectations and I was positively surprised. First of all, I was impressed with the diversity: from small but courageous opposition parties to former governing parties with well-oiled machinery, everyone was represented. Also, the professionalism of the participants was incredibly high. Many of them do a fantastic job in their countries under difficult conditions. This has provided inspiration for my own work – especially within the context of over 60 years of democracy in the Federal Republic, which many people do not really appreciate anymore. So, the event gave me an additional burst of motivation.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: In 2009 you implemented several digital instruments, such as CDU.TV, in the parliamentary election campaign. How digital does Africa, or the participating countries, seem to you?

OLIVER RÖSELER: Some of the campaigns in Africa today are as digital as in Germany, this is a continent on the move. It almost seems like political communication here skipped a step and took two steps forward at once. In Africa the modern instruments, such as the cell phone, are often the only way to reach people across great distances, and don’t forget, Youtube and Facebook are also free, which is important! The increasing digitalization has real reasons and will play an even greater role in the future. In comparison: In Germany, the meaning of this field is growing rapidly, but in Africa it is of existential importance.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: The last question of the interviews on the KAS E-lection Bridge Africa website is always…

OLIVER RÖSELER: …what is the “next big thing”? Everyone knows that by now (laughs). I’ll answer with a concrete example from the E-lection Bridge Africa in Ghana. Michelle Fondo from Kenya impressed us a lot with her successful Facebook campaign. That really motivated me. For a while now I have been busy with the question of how to get people more excited about politics. I’m not talking about a particular technique, but rather about a philosophy or strategy. The E-lection Bridge Africa made me once again aware that the decisive challenge is: How do we get people interested in what politics does? How do we reach their heads and their hearts? The conference in Accra has provided me with important stimuli for the answer to those questions.