Real People, Real Issues, Real Solutions

  • Friso Douwstra

While being a city councilmember in the Netherlands might seem like it does not have much in common with being a Jordanian parliamentarian, the campaign strategies behind running for any elected office rely on common principles – real people with real issues with real solutions

This was the primary message of a recent training I conducted with my EFF colleagues Wim Eilering and Coşkun Çörüz for Jordanian political party members ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections set for September 20.  I was not sure what to expect, but the trip was enlightening on a number of levels.

EFF provides training to political parties around the globe in the principle of “International Solidarity.” We strongly believe in the underlying foundations of democratic government, and are happy to help any group that wants to learn more about this system. In this case, IRI wanted us to train ten parties that are planning to participate as a new coalition in the upcoming elections, and to teach them the values of democracy, political core values, debate skills and campaign strategies over the course of two days.

During these two days of training, we shared our personal experiences on election campaigning in the Netherlands, and I discussed what it’s like to be a city councilmember.  We facilitated debates and exercises, and tried to bring in current events in Jordan, like tourism and refugees. We also taught the participants how to build coalitions, how to create campaign plans and the fundamentals of campaign strategies. The party members pretended to either be liberals, conservatives or socialists during one exercise, and they seemed to grasp the differences between these ideologies by the end.

There were some challenges during the training, as there was a noticeable gap in the attitudes of the older and younger party members. The younger members would dream about new perspectives in a modern democracy, but the older members would reply “that is not possible in Jordan.” Other times, the older members would volunteer to answer questions and talk for twenty minutes without actually answering the question.

While this was an intensive trip, it was a very valuable experience. The party members may have all been different ages and had very different experiences, but they were equally excited to participate in democratic development in their country. In cooperation with the IRI staff in Jordan, I think we had a good kick off for this new coalition, and I’m looking forward to the follow up training!


IRI partners with the Eduardo Frei Foundation (EFF), the international branch of the Dutch Christian Democratic Appeal party. As part of this partnership, the EFF sends experts to serve as volunteer trainers for IRI. Friso Douwstra is on the city council of Leeuwarden, the regional capital of Friesland, in the Netherlands. He is also a member of the Christian Democratic Appeal’s board for the North of the Netherlands and serves as an independent consultant on public affairs and strategic consultancy.


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