Political Campaigning in the Age of Covid-19
The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has forced us to find new ways of doing many of the things we formerly took for granted. Or, in some cases, it has made us realize that what we once felt was essential is not as important as we thought.
Had it not been for the global pandemic, by now, many of us would have been stricken with a different type of fever – election fever — local in nature, and which manifests itself in nightly attendance at village meetings and campaign rallies, the wearing of party colours and paraphernalia and participation in heated arguments about the merits and demerits of the contending parties.
But COVID-19 has changed that.
Earlier this year, the New Democratic Party (NDP) had started holding village meetings, but since the imposition of restrictions on the size of gatherings and the playing of amplified music, the NDP have taken their meetings online, in an effort to get their message out and to keep the momentum going.
But for at least one candidate in the upcoming poll, the COVID-19 restrictions have posed a much more serious threat.
Dwight Fitzgerald Bramble was selected by the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) as their candidate for the East Kingstown constituency since mid-February. But four months later, Bramble, who lives in Canada, has yet to set foot in the country to begin his campaign in earnest.
But with the clock ticking down, and uncertainty being the only thing that we can be sure of these days, last Friday night Mr Bramble launched his campaign for the East Kingstown seat, from thousands of miles away, by way of a virtual town hall meeting. While he had fairly good participation online, it must be frustrating for him that he is unable to travel to be able to begin climbing the hills of East Kingstown to introduce himself to those to have the power to elect him to Parliament.
Even for politicians already on the ground, the COVID-19 threat means that shaking hands, hugging and kissing, which help in making connections and establishing bonds, will have to be put on hold. To keep Covid-19 contained, social distancing is recommended, but in order to earn the trust and confidence of the people, politicians are required to draw socially close.
Just how much effect all this will have on the result of the general elections is left to be seen. This new normal will certainly require high levels of creativity and adaptability on the part of the political parties and their candidates as they try to get their messages out while ensuring the safety of the public.