The first day in Yangon put its main focus on the recent elections that have happened in the region. Before starting with some in-depth analysis of some of the recently held elections, Mr. Christian Echle, Director of the Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia and Dr. Norbert Eschborn, KAS Resident Representative to Myanmar, gave their welcome and opening remarks. Dr. Eschborn praised the effort of the Regional Programme for having already hosted multiple events in Myanmar during the recent years, despite some of the challenges the country has been and is still going through.
Following the welcome remarks was an insightful analysis of the recently held European elections by Dr. Klaus Schüler, Federal Managing Director of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Germany.Dr. Schüler, who has been part of the E-Lection Bridge since the very beginning, discussed some of the recent developments he has observed and experienced in European politics, including the ongoing rise of polarizing parties in large parts of Europe. He also noted the increased importance of the topic of climate change, especially in Germany, and also the related increase in votes for green parties and how this will affect the existing coalitions and influence how decisions are made in the European Parliament.
Dr. Schüler was followed by Simon Berger, Deputy Federal Director of the Liberal Party in Australia. In his presentation, Mr. Berger explained the strategy of his party during the recent Australian elections and how the party managed to go from being a “muppet show” to winning the elections.
The third and final election that was discussed during the first day was the election in India. Here, Charu Pragya, Spokesperson and Campaign Manager of Bharatiya Janata Party in the State of Uttar Pradesh, revealed how the BJP managed to improve even further on its already impressive result from 2014 in the world’s largest democratic election.
After looking at the Indian elections, it was time for the final topic of the first day. A strategic discussion on campaign organisation, strategy and communication was moderated by the Director of the Regional Programme himself, Mr. Christian Echle. The discussion featuring Dr. Klaus Schüler, Simon Berger and Greg Hamilton, General Manager of the New Zealand National Party gave an interesting view into campaigning in different countries, as well as showing the ways the parties dealt with winning or losing their election. The discussion showed how important it is for a party to be a well-organised and unified with a clear message and effective strategy that focuses on their core strengths.
The second day in Yangon started with another view of the European elections, where Julia Carstens, assistant to Dr. Klaus Schüler, focused on the ever growing sector of digital campaigning and youth participation. Ms. Carstens illustrated the digital campaign strategy of the CDU and pointed out some of the obstacles they were facing and how they tried to tackle them. The discussion was also an opportunity to learn from the participants especially with regards to social media and youth engagement, two of the fields the CDU was struggling in during the European elections.
The following session featured another discussion, this time on a topic that had a special relevance to the host country, the influence of military in democratic elections. Again moderated by Mr. Echle, the discussion involved U Myo Yan Naung Thein, who is currently director of BAYDA Institute and Secretary of the Central Research Committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Anthony Kap Khan Khual, who is part of the Central Executive Committee of the Zomi Congress for Democracy, and Pannika Wannich, Spokesperson of the Future Forward Party in Thailand. The discussants shared the different ways the military was still having a strong influence in the political environment of these countries.
The succeeding session, led by Senior Programme Manager Dr. La Toya Waha, featured another important topic in Asia—the role of religion and ethnicity in elections. The discussants of this session were, YB Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, Chief of Information of the Malaysian People’s Justice Party, Dr. Mahinda Haradasa, Senior Member of the Sri Lankan United National Party Campaign Management Committee, and Hon. Biraj Bahadur Bista, Former State Minister for Science and Technology in Nepal. The discussants conveyed the different challenges their countries are facing when it comes to religion and ethnicity and the different ways their parties are dealing with them.
The final session of the day, moderated by Mr. Rey Padit, Programme Manager for Political Cooperation of KAS PDA, with Maria Lourdes Tiqua, Founder and CEO of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc., and Roger Tu Lee, CEO and Founder of Autopolitic as discussants, showed what the future of digital campaigning might look like. It offered insights into the workings of their companies, the tools they use to win elections and how social media can be used to gauge public opinion and react to it much faster than traditional media would ever be able to.
With the second day being done, Mr. Frank Priess, Deputy Head of the Department of European and International Cooperation of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, gave his closing remarks, stressing the importance of events like this in the portfolio of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. He praised it as a platform that provides political parties and election campaigners the opportunity to learn from each other on different strategies on how to promote our shared democratic values.
The third and final day of the event featured two field trips. First, the participants visited the headquarters of the National League for Democracy, where they were able to engage in a lively discussion with some of the highest ranking leaders of the party on topics involving Myanmar and the whole region. The upcoming 2020 election in Myanmar was of particular importance and the international participants and NLD officials were able to exchange valuable ideas on how the NLD could tackle the challenges they might face in their reelection.
Following the visit to the NLD Headquarters, the group was able to get a better understanding of Myanmar and its culture through a visit of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar which is an important part of Myanmar’s history.
The visit to the Pagoda marked the end of the 2019 E-Lection Bridge and we would like to thank all the participants and speakers for the successful event. We are very much looking forward to the next conference!
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