Watching the excitement and buzz that surround the Dostour Party, I can’t help but feel , alongside with every revolutionary that worked in post-revolution parties, that we have seen this movie before. So, in an attempt to be positive, here are ten tips to help them avoid repeating the same mistakes that all of the previous parties did.
1) Define yourself: You can’t be the party of all Egyptians, because there are 91 million Egyptians with 91 billion opinions. The party that claims to represent everyone is the party that represents no one, so please make sure that everyone understands who you are, whom you represent and what you aim to do. Develop an elevator speech: a simple message that explains who you are and what you believe to be your solution to our problems in less than 90 seconds. It’s not easy, but it makes it easier to sell you to the voting population and gives your members a clear political identity.
2) Verify your members: Don’t be happy with high number of applications, chances are that 60 percent of them are infiltrators (from competing political groups or security services aiming to spy on you and sabotage you at a critical moment) or opportunists (who will sell you out to the highest bidder at the first chance). Make sure no one becomes a member without them being nominated by another trusted member and to inform that trusted member that they are responsible for their nomination. Develop a members map, linking them all together, so that it will help identify and weed out the sources of trouble later on. (Bonus tip: don’t try to have many members. Focus on having many voters instead.)
3) Create the operational platform first: The high interest will lead to your coordinators being flooded with members who want to work/help/donate and thus being overwhelmed, which (unless you have a trained, trusted and dedicated coordinator for every 20 members) will allow them to fall through the cracks, turning them into bitter ex-members who will go all over town talking about how unorganised you are and how they wanted to help but no one contacted them. This is bad publicity and reputation is everything to a starting party. Here is an idea: create an IT platform for resources and people management, with a strong database identifying them, their interests, the role they want to play and where they want to play it. It will always be helpful for people management, now and later.
4) Separate the managerial roles: There are three parallel structures that should exist in a party: the political structure, which handles policy formulation, media appearances and political strategy; the electoral structure, which handles data collection, voter segmentation, campaigns, candidate selection and training; and the operational structure, which are non-politicised employees working to support both the political and electoral structures. For example, if the political office wants to organise a demonstration for any reason, they inform the operational manager, who contacts his mobilisation committee for member outreach and logistics for the demonstration. Don’t let politicians become operational managers (because they will always be distracted or become corrupt), or operations people become politicised (because they will make the operations fit their agenda). It’s bad business!
5) Don’t play the Muslim Brotherhood’s game: Do not let those bastards define you. You are not secular, civil, liberal, or leftist. You are a progressive party. Do not counter religious points with religious arguments; use your rational identity and arguments as your sword and shield. Your battle is one between progress and backwardness, not religiosity versus secularism. Know this and believe it.
6) Pick your battles: Do not be another reactionary Party. Create your long term strategy and stick to it, no matter how many side fights your enemies will try to distract you with and drag you into. Also, go on the offensive yourself, and start your own fights. Fights that you want to win and know how to win. For example, know which laws you want to change/remove/propose and make them an issue. Be prepared when your enemies are not. It will feel awesome to make them jump through your hoops for a change.
7) Always be on the street: About 30 percent of the voting population in Egypt has no clue what the parties’ names are or what they stand for, but when asked to vote, they will vote for whomever they see on their street doing something good or useful (from awareness campaigns to social services to even block parties). Be visible. There are entire areas in Egypt that only knows of the Noor Party and the FJP because no one went there. Present yourself as an option.
8) Train, train, train: Your supporters are enthusiastic, but enthusiasm without guidance is extremely dangerous. Always train your supporters and members, be it outreach, party representation, social coordination, campaigning, group work and conflict resolution (Egyptians don’t work well in groups and always fight). Invest in them and they will rarely let you down.
9) Do not cater to revolutionary voters: Of all the political blocs in Egypt, the Egyptian revolutionaries are the worst target bloc to cater for. They are idealistic, cynical, reactionary, destructive, negative, easily swayed, filled with textbook solutions that don’t actually work on the ground, they love to create icons only to turn on them later, they don’t all share the same beliefs and they never agree on anything. It’s a historical fact that every party that has tried to cater to revolutionaries this past year got roasted, and at times their reputation fully destroyed, by them eventually. Cater to a mindset only, and you will get whomever believes in it, whether revolutionaries, reformers, conservatives or couch potatoes. Stick to that instead.
10) Do not get into coalitions: Coalitions are usually based on value, and there is very little value in going into a coalition with already “established” parties that have a disappointed voter base, a bad reputation, no candidates, minimal infrastructure and no funding; which is 99 percent of them. They all want to hide behind your name and drag it down with them, and they will waste your time with endless negotiations and meetings over whatever interests they have and gains they hope to make off of you. Do not waste your time on wankers. Focus your time, resources and energy on yourself instead.