The 2020 parliamentary elections in Croatia once again showed the communication inflexibility of Croatian politicians.
Author: Nataša Blagojević
The third #StartDialog online panel was all about political communication, and not without reason - the Croatian parliamentary elections will be held in less than a month and will be the first elections in the post-corona period. During a lively disccussion, Mislav Bago (Nova TV), Damira Gregoret (RTL Hrvatska), Jerko Trogrlić (VAJT) and Gordan Turković (CTA komunikacije) shared their opinion with our moderator Marina Čulić Fischer about the "safe" slogan of HDZ, the growth of SDP's rating and the behaviour of President Milanović.
Safety Built On Fear
The debate began with the premise that the timing of the election was an expected step by the ruling party (HDZ), which took place on a wave of successful coronavirus-related communication. The panellists agreed that the situation had changed dramatically in the meantime and that the messages needed to be adapted to the new environment, which did not happen. Mislav Bago emphasized that the only chance for HDZ to successfully communicates the slogan "Safe Croatia" to voters is to wake again the feeling of fear - this time from the uncertain economic situation, i.e. the recession in which Croatia is definitely going, with which Jerko Trogrlić agreed adding that the messages from yesterday are outdated and how voters today are already looking towards the future. He also pointed of the problem of changing the state leadership in context of voter's insecurity for the future development of situation, as well as the lack of a sense of leadership by opposition leader Davor Bernardić and the dubious authenticity of the Restart coalition. All panellists agreed that no political option offers a vision for the future development of the country and all parties have a chronical lack of content. They also mentioned the possibility of soon re-elections without the currently key political leaders - Andrej Plenković and Davor Bernardić. Mislav Bago picturesquely said that the two of them are playing the game of their lives.
Speaking about which communication messages the parties should send to voters, Bago pointed out that programs are not what moves people, and that voters make their value judgment and decide who to vote for earlier, based on their own preferences and emotions. Trogrlić did not completely agree with that, and pointed out that some indecisive or passive voters can be motivated by quality campaigns, carefully selected targeted messages and consistent communication. He vividly described Croatia's election communication as "sex in which there is an exclusively missionary position during which the lights are turned off and everything is over in five minutes", while voters expect to be seduced.
Turković continued with the conclusion that Croatian political communication lacks ideas and innovations, that the advice of communication experts is not listened, nor are all available tools used, especially digital ones. Bago agreed and concluded that this was due to the attitude of local politicians who think that they are in fact the best PR and communication experts.
Milanović Against SDP
Commenting on President Milanovic's recent communication, Damira Gregoret pointed out that the president's messages and behaviour were contradictory and helped the prime minister, i.e. the mobilization of the right-wing voters, which SDP certainly does not satisfy.
In the final part of the panel, Trogrlić advised politicians not to engage with banalities and ideological debates and to offer indecisive voters a vision of a new Croatia. Turković said they should use expert advice more. Gregoret told them to choose battles carefully and have clear goals, and Bago reminded to have mind that less is actually more and told the politicians not to deceive voters, because that will drag our country into an even bigger depression.
You can watch and listen to the whole discussion on the Dialog YouTube channel, and to find out what will be discussed in the next #StartDialog panel, subscribe to our newsletter via https://bit.ly/Dialog_newsletter.