If 2016 were to be described in the history books as a year of chaos, with Brexit and Trump as two prominent features, 2017 would probably be dubbed “The year of elections.” These are turbulent times, not only politically, but also when it comes to campaigning. Breaking through the noise on social media, battling the spread of fake news, even hacker attacks from foreign territory are all features that are relevant in analysing campaigns in 2017. So how are politicians responding to this changing environment? In this series of articles, we’ll examine a few creative attempts to reinvent political campaigning, starting with a French left wing candidate, embracing both holograms and mobile games in his political campaign.
Last weekend, centre candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen were the two winners of the first round of the French election. Macron, an EU-friendly former Minister of Finance and Le Pen, ruling the extreme-right Front National, will have a final face-off this Sunday. The numbers are in Macron’s favour, but polls have been proven wrong time after time this year. The road to the French election has been bumpy and filled with controversies and scandals. First, it was revealed that centre-right candidate Francois Fillon had allegedly hired and paid his wife, without her working for it.
This could well have cost him the presidential title, since his support fell dramatically after this revelation. Secondly, Le Pen’s statement that the French were not necessarily guilty for the Vel D’Hiv events in Paris during the second world war (where thousands of Jews were held captive in a sports arena and later deported by the French authorities) reeks of antisemitism.
Le Pen is campaigning with only her first name “Marine”, to get rid of her father’s controversial legacy (the former leader of the Front National, Marine’s father, is known for questioning the Holocaust). And she’s now flirting with voters who might consider not voting at all, since even the Front National is becoming ‘too moderate.’ Lastly, the rumours that Emmanuel Macron was having a secret affair with Radio France chief executive, Mathieu Gallet, were laughed off, but held a serious undertone; the Macron campaign has faced hacker attacks, said to originate from Russia. In addition, Russian media, such as Sputnik News and Russia Today, have been spreading fake news stories about Macron, in an attempt to sway the public in favour of Le Pen.
Technological advances from the left
With traditional right wing and socialist parties out of the picture (president Francois Hollande had made the socialist party so incredibly unpopular that the party’s candidate Benoit Hamon never stood a real chance), the future of French politics was more uncertain than ever. In the turmoil of EU-scepticism, rage against the establishment and fear of terror, Le Pen was thriving. But, there was a new candidate emerging, fundamentally opposed to Le Pen and her movement. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the intellectual leader of the radical left, seized the voters fleeing the socialist party, and with wit and an impressive use of new technology became a real threat to the established candidates. Mélenchon is mostly known for his use of holograms. When hosting a rally in Dijon, holograms were projected in six other cities, enabling him to be at seven places at one time.
However, one feature of his campaign that was somewhat forgotten, is the launch of a mobile game, called Fiscal Combat. In this game, your aim is to catch capitalists and shake them until money falls out of their pockets and into the French budget. Included in the game are IMF-boss Christine Lagarde and former president Nicolas Sarkozy. When a capitalist threatens to flee with his money to Switzerland, the protagonist Mélenchon exclaims: “Think again! You have millions, we are millions!”
The use of gamification makes the election approachable, even to those lacking political interest
This creative campaigning has appealed to the youth and in questioning the establishment, Mélenchon simultaneously steals votes from Le Pen, without dipping his toes in her brownish waters. The use of gamification makes the election approachable, even to those lacking political interest. Using holograms is not just an excellent PR-stunt, it is also incredibly convenient to be able to host rallies at seven places at the same time. However, it was not enough to be witty and technologically cunning this time, and Mélenchon saw himself defeated by Macron and Le Pen. This Sunday, the final elections are being held, and I know I’ll be watching (possibly multitasking and playing Mélenchons game at the same time).
Cover: Tamar Hellinga