A foreign country’s leading opposition political party sought to focus global attention on its upcoming national elections, where the likelihood of a free and fair campaign and poll was severely imperiled by the ruling party’s increasingly authoritarian leadership. The party sought a greater voice and decisive action by the international community—in particular the United States, European Union, and United Nations—to hold the government accountable for its abuse of authority, while highlighting the country’s deterioration of democracy, human rights, and civil liberties.
A lack of understanding, awareness, and urgency among global leaders about the country’s declining state of democracy was severely limiting international calls for adherence to the rule of law and political freedom. Meanwhile, the ruling party had consolidated its rule, pushing constitutional reforms helping it remain in power—while targeting and harassing members of the opposition. Previous elections had been deeply marred by violence and irregularities, leading the party to boycott the previous election and leaving doubt that it would participate in the upcoming election. The fact that the country enjoyed cooperative relations—political, security, humanitarian, and trade—with key international and Western partners further constrained the policy space and appetite for focus on its crackdown on civil society, media, and critics.
Blue Star Strategies recommended a proactive public awareness campaign designed to demonstrably increase the party’s profile and voice in front of Western audiences which lacked accurate and timely information about the country’s declining state of democracy and assaults on free speech and political activity. We identified key messages that would resonate with targeted stakeholders, including leverage by the U.S. and the EU as the country’s key trading partners and foreign aid donors; the risk that declining space for political expression could sow violent and extremist elements; and the implications of the country’s autocratic rule on wider regional and geopolitical dynamics.
Blue Star Strategies designed and implemented a sequential, strategic campaign targeting key stakeholders and influencers in the United States and European Union. We developed, educated, and empowered a cadre of champions in the U.S. Congress and State Department, European Commission and Parliament, UN, and among think tanks, policy institutions, and human rights watchdog organizations—keeping them regularly informed of on-the-ground developments through direct engagement, written briefings, and electronic updates. We coordinated and arranged successive delegation visits by senior party representatives for direct engagement with interlocutors in Washington, DC and Brussels—and arranged high level roundtable discussions for party leaders to share their story and vision at policy institutions such as the Atlantic Council, among others. Our early engagement with civil society set the stage for a series of high profile public reports published by Human Rights Watch highlighting the country’s authoritarian decent. We placed numerous op-eds in major news outlets, leading to an official briefing in the U.S. Congress at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which culminated in a bipartisan Congressional and EU Resolution condemning the country’s democratic abuses and calling for a free and fair election.
Our continuous pressure ultimately yielded official statements by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. Department of State, EU Parliament, and UN expressing serious concerns over unsafe and undemocratic polling environments. A bipartisan letter was then sent by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs to the Secretary of State calling for U.S. Administration action to protect democracy in the country. Most importantly, a personal letter was sent by the U.S. president to the country’s ruling prime minister expressing dissatisfaction with the conduct of the elections.
Our efforts resulted in dramatically increased Western attention focusing on the country and its flawed democracy and elections—through both private communications and public condemnations. The opposition party now enjoys direct and regular access and open lines of communication with a wider array of champions for democracy in the country—setting the stage for greater international scrutiny and oversight of relations with the country and for holding the government accountable for adherence to democratic principles and the rule of law.
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