Visiting Programme of the Pakatan Harapan Delegation to Germany 2017
The visiting programme was attended by 7 delegates consisted of members from 3 political parties in Malaysia which belongs to the opposition coalition called the “Coalition of Hope”. The programme began from 9-15 December 2017, which started in Düsseldorf and ended in Berlin, with short visits to Cologne and Potsdam in between. The delegates are representing the People’s Justice Party (KEADILAN), the National Trust Party (Amanah), and the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu). The delegation was led by Nurul Izzah Anwar, Vice President cum the Election Director of KEADILAN. The programme itself started on Saturday, 9 December with a welcoming dinner represented by Rahel Zibner from the International Academy for Leadership, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and ended on 15 December with a visit to the Head Office of FNF in Potsdam and an evaluation session at the end of the dayThe first day of the programme was an introductory seminar regarding the topic “Elections, Campaigning and Coalitions in Germany” facilitated by Petra Pabst. The delegates were given a thorough and detailed explanation on the political mapping of Germany, such as the relevant federal and state institutions, funding of political parties, the different visions of political parties in Germany, electoral and voting system, characteristic of voters, including the election and campaign management. Delegates were also given a brief overview of the various counterparts who they will meet throughout the week.
The meeting with editor-in-chief, Jochen Trum, of the WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) TV Station took place on the second day. It was a brief yet fruitful meeting continued with a discussion during lunch. WDR is a German public-broadcasting institution based in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia with its main office in Cologne. In terms of size, WDR is the second largest studio in Germany. News and current affairs are the main things which are produced here such as political news, debates, and in-depth forums. The campaign coverage mainly goes on-air during the 3-6 weeks prior to election day, with the climax on election night. The delegates were informed of the type of balancing reporting that are presented. News needs to be impartial, geographical balanced, and also different political groups need to have a balanced reporting and airtime.
On the same day, the delegates visited the FDP Faction in the Cologne City Council and had a discussion with Ralph Sterck about the experiences of FDP with coalitions in Cologne city council and the election of the mayor of Cologne. He gave a thorough explanation regarding the history of the coalitions in the Cologne city council from the year 2000-2015 and present. The delegates were impressed by the campaign photos and messages of the candidate for the mayor, Henriette Reker, who was supported by CDU, FDP, the Greens. Although she was actually running as an independent candidate, but with the support of those 3 parties, she managed to secure 52,66% of the votes and was elected as Mayor in 2015.
To end the day, the delegates had a meeting with the Young Liberals (JuLis) of North Rhine-Westphalia where they discussed about the recruitment process, political agenda, and the relation between the youth organization and FDP. It was an exciting moment for both sides, since it was a new experience for the delegates to have met youths who are passionate about politics and are willing to dedicate their time introducing and explaining politics to their peers in their State.
On the third day, the delegates visited the State Parliament of the North Rhine-Westphalia and met with Angela Freimuth, MdL, the Deputy Head of FDP Faction of the FDP of the North Rhine-Westphalia State. The discussion was mainly about the programmes of the faction, role of the faction, and other issues that they are fighting for such as renewable energy, immigration issues, including the ideas and solutions that came from the party.
In the same day, the delegates were transferred to Berlin.
A session with Frederik Ferié took place the next day with a discussion on political marketing and political branding. He explained the importance of self-image of a party member versus the external image in the voter’s image, and the ideal and reality in those images. Parties and party members must always understand how should an ideal party be and how it is in reality.
The delegates visited the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) where they witnessed parliament in session and had a business lunch with Gyde Jense, member of federal parliament from FDP. The discussions were about the structures of and relations between the parliament, faction, and the party.
Later in the evening, the delegates visited “Heimat Berlin”, an advertising agency who was responsible for the success campaign of FDP in the previous election. The presentation and discussion were very interesting and an eye-opener for the delegates, because they get to discuss certain election campaign messages with the person in charge of the FDP campaign, Elisabeth Treichel.
The meeting with Christian Renatus – Election Campaign Manager, the next day also brought some new insights and ideas for the delegates. They were very keen to know the political and campaign strategies that brought success for the FDP in the previous election. Christian Renatus explained thoroughly that election campaigning is mainly about management and that politicians and their party must always remember that campaigning always takes place. Election statements need a future connotation in the message which means that the expectations of the voters need to be taken into account and to find solutions for the voters. These are important points which were not really realized by the delegates then.
The following meeting was a session with Tobias Bauschke, Committee member of the regional party executive board of FDP, who also is a spokesman in the European Parliament. He explained that the FDP first started to campaign seriously in 2015 which was known as “campaign mode”. He did admit that the campaigns before that were slightly boring and predictable which failed to gain interest of the voters.
The day continued with a meeting with “Open Sourcing Democracy”. The discussion was led by Jana Gähler (Project Manager) and Marie-Kathrin Siemer. The institution offered services such as participation projects, consultancy, and research in the form of an open source software which is downloadable online with a free license. The most interesting and relevant service for the delegates was the online petition made for citizens of Berlin. The concept was intended to raise the voices of the citizens and to understand their needs vis a vis the plans of the State government. This is particularly interesting for the delegates since Malaysia is not familiar with this kind of bottom-up approach.
The last day of the programme ended with a visit to the Head Office of FNF in Potsdam. Maria Schneider gave a thorough presentation of the works of FNF abroad. An evaluation session followed afterwards.
Overall, the programme was a success. A lot of new and insightful ideas were able to be brought back by the delegates. They are aware that they still have a lot of homework to do before their election in 2018. The discussions and advices given from various counterparts in Germany were very relevant and crucial to their political works in Malaysia. This programme was also regarded as a great experience for them, especially in regards to the discussions on political branding, campaign messaging and tools, and also campaign management. The delegates were exposed to different kinds and methods of election campaigning and thought-provoking concepts which made them understand more on how to win an election. We believe that they will take the experience and knowledge given from this programme and concretized their strategies which will enable them to be successful in the Malaysia General Election in 2018.