A leading contender in Afghanistan's upcoming presidential election has called in UK social media agency Red Narrative to oversee the campaign's global digital strategy.
The agency, led by former Labour consultant Luke Bozier, is deploying a combination of campaign websites, email and social media tools such as YouTube and Twitter to boost awareness and raise funds for Dr Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan's former finance minister.
Ghani is currently polling third ahead of the August election, behind the frontrunner President Hamid Karzai. Red Narrative will target the 500,000-strong Afghani expatriate population in Western countries, which numbers 45,000 in the UK alone.
‘This encourages distant communities of Afghans to connect with the campaign in ways which they previously wouldn't be able to,' said Bozier. ‘Particularly in poorer countries, the ability to fundraise from citizens who live and work in richer countries is a major boon in campaign planning.'
Ghani has already enlisted legendary American political consultant James Carville as his campaign strategist. Carville, who is best known for leading Bill Clinton's successful presidential bid in 1992, has denied that his role represents US backing for Ghani's campaign.
In addition to targeting expat Afghans, Red Narrative hopes to use digital media to encourage local influencers to spread the word in their communities, despite internet penetration of less than five per cent in Afghanistan.
‘I certainly hope that examples like this, from a place as war-torn and underdeveloped as Afghanistan will go some way to show certain reluctant Western politicians that it is not just okay but vital to use social media to communicate about politics,' added Bozier. ‘If the principles of online campaigning can be tried and tested, and be seen to have worked in Afghanistan, they can work anywhere.'
Ghani resigned from Karzai's cabinet in 2004, before establishing the Institution for State Effectiveness. Prior to returning to Afghanistan 2001, he spent two decades at the World Bank and the UN, and has been described by the New Yorker as a ‘technocratic alternative to the politics of warlordism and corruption'.