Five ways Imran Khan’s party used technology to outperform in elections

By Uzair Younus in the Atlantic Council: Pakistan’s electorate made themselves heard on February 8, when the country held general elections after months of delays. As results came in, it was evident that efforts to curb support for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is currently in jail, and his political party fell short on election day. Candidates backed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as the largest bloc in parliament, winning ninety-three seats (out of 264). On February 13, the two parties that won the second and third largest shares of seats announced that they would form a coalition government, excluding the PTI from power. Nonetheless, the strong result of PTI-affiliated candidates in the election reveals an important trend emerging in Pakistani politics…

PTI’s use of technology—much of it not cutting-edge not only disrupted the traditional political status quo but also set a new benchmark for electoral campaigns around the world. Here are five ways in which PTI’s technology and digital media strategy helped the party outmaneuver its rivals in Pakistan’s general elections:

1. Cultivating a culture of bottom-up innovation
2. Strategically using artificial intelligence (AI)
3. Developing peer-to-peer communication networks
4. Dominating the news cycle to earn media attention
5. Opponents failing to innovate

The result of PTI’s technological campaign strategy was a more engaged and informed electorate, which translated into significant electoral gains. Khan’s PTI managed to galvanize a significant part of the electorate, and the party’s success demonstrates the potential of digital tools to democratize political participation and challenge entrenched power structures.

It is no surprise that some of the most powerful men in Pakistan want to find ways to control the internet. Over the last few years, for example, the government has tried to control the internet by proposing new laws and regulations, some of which have been struck down by the courts. By and large, these efforts have failed to stem the tide. What comes next remains to be seen, and the threat to internet freedoms remains high in Pakistan. PTI, however, has shown that despite all sorts of headwinds and repression, it is possible to engage in guerrilla tactics on the internet to mobilize an electorate and challenge the status quo… Read the whole story here.