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IRI Helps Prepare Young Leaders for Campaign Success

December 20, 2007

As a part its Leadership Institute for Central and Eastern Europe (LICEE) series, International Republican Institute (IRI) hosted up-and-coming leaders for an intensive training seminar in Bucharest, Romania.  Participants from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia gathered December 8-12 to discuss their future political ventures with experts from Western Europe, Slovakia, Hungary and the United States.

The Bucharest training was the 17th in the LICEE series aimed at equipping young prospective leaders in the region with skills to help them build successful political careers, and effectively advocate their interests in local, regional and national politics.  Through the LICEE, IRI provides expert know-how to talented young people who have or will face electoral challenges and opportunities in the region; this training was particularly important given the recent backlash against reforms and more sophisticated marketing methods used for winning popular support.

In a curriculum tailored according to experiences from previous trainings, participants encountered theoretical and practical know-how from trainers with various backgrounds and political cultures.  On the first training day, Harry van der Molen, President of the Netherlands’ Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) youth organization, and Jorik Ter Horst, representative to the Youth of the Netherlands’ Institute for Multiparty Democracy, discussed the CDA experience with developing and using campaign messages in the successful campaigns of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

Ondrej Socuvka, former advisor to Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, discussed the challenges of communicating tough reforms and the lessons learned by governments defending unpopular measures.

The second day of training was chaired by Zoltan Kiszelly, senior advisor to the Joszef Antall Foundation of Hungary, who introduced polling methods and their importance for setting campaign goals.  In order to show recent trends in campaigning, participants from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) presented tools, visuals and inspirational multimedia clips used to achieve electoral victory in national elections just one week before seminar.  

The third and last day of training was dedicated to practical aspects of field campaign management and particularly fundraising opportunities. Darragh Kelly, Western Area Regional Organizer for Ireland’s Fine Gael party, described useful techniques and resources used by Fine Gael to organize volunteers and keep them motivated, to run an effective campaign, and to fundraise money for their recent 2007 campaign.  

The seminar concluded with a presentation of the personal insights of door-to-door campaigning from a LICEE alum, Agnieszka Pomaska.  Pomaska ran for a seat in the Polish parliament on behalf of the Civic Platform in the city of Gdansk this fall.   
Although her campaign was narrowly defeated by a margin of 39 votes, Pomaska's energetic approach motivated participants to work hard, even when victory is uncertain.

At the end of the training Matija Magerl of the Croatian HDZ and Nikola Marinkovic of Serbian G-17+ concluded, “The training provided me with information on how to focus on a campaign, turn it to the desired direction, and achieve a set goal. The most useful aspect of this training is certainly the high quality of people who took part in it.”

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