Let’s start with the fact that the business segment today has gone much further in its development than the political segment. In politics, we are just switching to those platforms that are already actively used in the new economy. We are switching to social networks, messengers, we are starting to work with Big Data, which has been successfully used in marketing for more than five years. The elections are moving to the Internet, mastering the format of electronic voting.
All of this became mainstream after Donald Trump won the election thanks to the active use of social media. The same social networks were used in the Brexit vote and in the Italian elections. Therefore, economic terminology is not just appropriate in politics, it is fundamental, if only because efficiency is measured by the amount of invested resources – economic, human, administrative – per one vote, which they bring to the party.
If we continue comparing the political field with the economic one, then we can say that in politics we have now developed a “traditional economy”, with its own oil and gas sector, metallurgy, and industrial complex. We have parties that traditionally master their spheres and live on them for a long time. But there are also fast-growing segments, the time of which will come in the near future. These parties target young voters, those who will become the main electorate in 5-10 years. They use modern communication channels and grow faster than others. We can say that these are “political unicorns”, or, for example, “political gazelles” – parties that demonstrate explosive growth due to innovative solutions.
In the ended election campaign, the parties that registered only this year had practically no time to campaign. During a pandemic, outdoor advertising does not work, restrictions on movement have been introduced in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, normal campaigning in such conditions is simply impossible. And at the same time, the “New People” managed to get mandates and take the fifth place (and somewhere in the third), letting only the systemic parties go ahead, which have been spilling the electorate for 20 years. In all elections to the regional legislative assemblies, where the “New People” participated, they crossed the 5% line. Given the lack of access to a full-fledged information circuit, that is, federal television, this is one of the highest results.
If we extrapolate the mathematical model to the all-Russian component, such a result suggests that the party is really comparable to the “unicorn” company. If traditional parties are a conditional oil company, then New People is a political Facebook that is growing very quickly and constantly increasing its capitalization.
One of the important reasons for their success was the focus on regional leaders and strong teams. The New People were actively involved in municipal elections. Other new parties – neither For Pravda, nor the Direct Democracy Party – actively did not go to city meetings. That is, the New People found their established political leaders at different levels and gave them the opportunity and resources to move independently. This is already such a political venture.
They also bring new faces into politics. The demand for changes in society is very wide; this is an urgent political agenda. It turns out that “New People” is a unique organization, uncharacteristic for the Russian Federation, but which sooner or later had to appear. If they maintain the momentum they have gained, if they pick up new leaders, then in the parliamentary elections they can become a very strong player on the right field, even if these elections are early.
The prospects for “New People” are good, especially if you work in large agglomerations, rely on large cities. Their important advantage over competitors is their ability to mobilize a new electorate. According to sociology, the voters of the “New People” are not taken away from other parties, but are people who do not trust the electoral system in principle and young voters who have never gone to elections before. The party managed to mobilize those who vote for the first or second time in their lives. Such an electorate is a unique resource, a unique electoral reservoir. If we return to economic analogies, these are unique consumers who, in principle, did not consume political products before.
In the life of any political or economic “unicorn” it is very important to find a niche in which no one else is present, or to create a space in which there are no competitors. The “new people” have found this niche in those voters who are not interested in the big parties. Until recently, the authorities did not know how to talk to them, they do not know what they live with, what they play, what they watch and listen to.
It needs to be clarified how Gen Z – people born after 2000 – and millennials born in the 80s of the last century are different from others. They do not trust the authorities, have little interest in politics, actively consume content from the Internet … We can say that these people perceive information differently and, of course, have a completely different attitude to the System. They need modern state services, competition, information accessibility – that is, positions that the authorities are very difficult to offer to the voter. But paradoxically, recently the government has been moving into this area even more actively than parties. In 20 years, they will become the main electorate, and the traditional parties will simply die out, because new voters will need to be spoken in their language.
On the other hand, pensioners also actively consume information via the Internet. We have a boom in Odnoklassniki. Everyone has smartphones, the Internet is sufficiently accessible, and this makes other demands on power, demands that power be at arm’s length. People want to see not a party – a political brand, but a union of like-minded people, people are interested not in a perfect ideology, but in the general discourse of the agenda.
Remember why Apple or Sony fans love these brands? Real unicorn companies build an ecosystem around their product. Likewise, the New People create an ecosystem in which various political leaders are present. This approach is more understandable for millennials and better suited to interact with them.
But I must warn you that many political organizations have faced the problem of a “crystal ceiling” – when they first experience explosive growth, and then lose their electoral base. Just for “unicorn” parties that are rapidly increasing their audience, it is extremely important not to turn into some kind of separate political project like “Right Cause” or an exclusively regional party.
First, the “new people” need to work with large agglomerations, since they are strong in the urban electorate. I would not recommend to face the big players directly or to fight for separate urban districts in Moscow. Right-wing players usually do not go to the regions or do it ineffectively, so it is more logical to work out a maximum of agglomerations outside Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Second, it is necessary to form and grow teams. The parliamentary campaign will be tougher and more demanding in terms of communication. For example, candidates from a party need to prepare in advance for the debate, be able to answer difficult questions. We need a kind of accelerator for growing candidates on the basis of the party.
The third important point is the formation of the electoral infrastructure. Regional authorities do not follow the principle of transparency, most regions will be afraid of meeting with the “New People”, so it will be necessary to establish an effective system of election observation. In addition, parties will most likely try to refuse for any reason, hence a strong legal department and an effective candidate registration system are needed.
In conclusion, it remains to say that the New People may well become the first national right-wing party in 15 years. The Union of Right Forces and Yabloko did not succeed in getting far, because their agenda ended in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the demand for the right-wing force has already formed in large cities throughout the country, the voter is ready for it both beyond the Urals and in the Far East. And then the “New People” will no longer be just a “unicorn”, but a really large party project.
The author is a political scientist, president of the Center for Strategic Communications.
The editorial position may differ from the opinion of the author.