Sergey Lebedenko

Standardization of the pre-election campaign: candidates selection criteria

Past off-year parliamentary elections have given an opportunity to study many of happenings of our life and, as a consequence, to rethink again. First of all, the main question that almost every Ukrainian asks himself, when the newly elected Parliament begins the “circus” and “fooling around”: How did we choose them? What did we look at?

After observing the dynamics of the electoral campaign of many candidates, the answer to the question “how did we choose them?” is self-evident: “blockbuster” model of campaigns and a tremendous amount of advertising says that we chose mostly “faces” and slogans rather than ideas and practical steps... The main prerequisite for this phenomenon includes the fact that people don’t have clear objective criteria for selection. And when there are no precise navigation mechanisms, their functions are performed by advertising. That is why political technologists and NLP specialists endeavor, formulating old hackneyed slogans in a brighter way.

Actually elections have become a process with positive feedback – due to the effect of habituation electoral taste is “simplifying” for the current quality of the candidates, and as a result, not very high quality of parliamentarians continues to lower by further reducing of public demands for quality.

Adverse selection is manifested this way in Ukrainian politics.

In today’s economy, this phenomenon is described very clearly – adverse selection works wherever final consumer is not able to assess the quality of the product at the stage of its selection (or there are no criteria or no mechanism).

George Akerlof, the famous economist and Nobel Prize laureate in 2002, described the phenomenon of adverse selection in details on the example of the market of “lemons” and “plums”, as well as ways to even up prices and save the market: the introduction of certain rules-institutions allows you to adjust the market and protect interests of the buyer. Or concerning politics the interests of voter!

And if the market of “lemons” can be saved by the introduction of guarantees of the seller, why don’t we require guarantees from the candidates for deputies? And not formal, which can be ignored, but real and effective ones.

What guarantees can we require? At least the guarantee that a candidate for deputy imagines the amount of work and field of concern...

If we consider the elections as recruitment, and it is actually so – we, the voters, hire a professional who has not only rights but also duties, and we have the right to ensure that he is honest, skilled, and most importantly, that he has a clear understanding of the issues and a definite plan of actions!

And now we turn to the main point:
not to wonder why the deputy haven’t done what he promised, we propose to standardize pre-election campaign.

Why do we need concerts, thousands of posters, hundreds of billboards, millions of leaflets? We must realize that spending, for example, three million dollars on the campaign, the candidate for deputy plans to “earn” on his position 10 times more than he has spent... Should we surprise at the schemes, corruption and theft?

Continuing the analogy with the hiring of a new employee, we must know how each candidate sees his work in the Parliament.

To do this, a candidate for the vacant position is usually offered to write an approximate work plan.

And what is more important to write not blurred, as most of pre-election programs are written now, but very precisely and specifically, emphasizing the goals, ways of achieving them and time-frames. For example, by the method of SMART.
SMART is an abbreviation used in management and project management to define goals and problem definition, introduced by Paul Meyer in 1965, but it is used successfully at the present time, because of its simplicity and clarity:

S – specific. Making some plans, you need to understand clearly what needs to be done. For example, the goal “to increase pensions” is a blurred parameter. More correct formulating would sound like: “to increase the amount of the minimum pension by 10% during 2015”. I.e. prescribing this option, you must be clear about what the final result will look like.

M – measurable. On this stage of determining of measurability we should detail characteristics basing on which it will be possible to understand that the goal is reached. For example, if the pension will be increased by 10%, this would mean that the plan was fulfilled by 100%. If, for example, by 5%. – accordingly, it will mean that the plan is executed only half.

I.e. at this stage it is necessary to identify measurable criteria by which we can judge the implementation of the plan. Additionally, we can set the lower and upper standards – minimum rate (below which you cannot fall in the implementation of the plan) and maximum rate (the best result).

A – achievable. On this stage of determining of the achievability it is necessary to answer the question: “Is an objective real?” If a country, for example, has an empty treasury, huge budget deficits, and there is a war – then this goal belongs to the category of unachievable. In this case, it is necessary to carry out its adjustment and replace by a more achievable and realistic. For example, preserve the payment of pensions in spite of the difficult situation in the country.

Working through the point of goal achievability, it is necessary to identify the tools and methods by which you can achieve this goal.

The main task is to evaluate all the resources that you can use to achieve the goal. After their analysis, it is necessary to select those that really can be applied in practice.

R – realistic. Determining the importance of goals, it is necessary to answer the question: Is it really important to do it now? Maybe it is not the main goal and we will waste time, energy and resources?
In addition to this point we must also see how this goal is coherent with other plans, including those that have been set earlier. Doesn’t it conflict with them?

T – time-related. Difference between the plan and the dream and the simple desire is that the plan has a clearly defined period of time during which it will be implemented. Partially temporal aspect may be designated in paragraph “S” – specificity, but here it must be worked out more attentively. i.e. prescribe the date of beginning of work on the project and the date of its completion.

As we can see, everything is clear, simple and logical.

Introducing changes in the legislation banning a lot of pre-election “rubbish”, strictly limiting the amount of money on campaigning and requiring candidates for deputies instead of lyrical and extensive programs “about nothing” to prepare specific action plans, we will cut off the populists at the stage of the pre-election race.

In addition, we’ll get clear criteria for evaluation of the deputy work for a year – fulfilling the election plan of actions by him.

And then we come to a clear and stable work of deputies throughout his tenure, and not from election to election.

Date: 22 January 2015