Category Archives: Transparency and Democracy

Spain’s political parties attempt to harness internet as electoral tool

Ever since the Obama campaign ignited America thanks to its creative use of social networks and the internet, European political parties have tried to ape the success in their own general elections. The UK’s last general election in 2010 was billed as the “Internet Election”, but the effect of the internet turned out to be a bit of a damp squib compared to expectations, and in comparison to the 2008 US Presidential elections.

And now, with their own general election just ten weeks away,Spain’s main parties are looking to extract maximum advantage from the World Wide Web. Yesterday, PP spokesman Esteban Gonzalez Pons, revealed that his leader and presidential candidate Mariano Rajoy was fully prepared for a “Twitter debate” with the PSOE candidate, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

And this morning the PSOE themselves have launched their own internet initiative, launching a special web portal for people to communicate their “ideas, opinions, solutions and proposals”. This virtual political conference will be running from 30th September to 2nd October, and can be accessed here.

However, the political parties’ internet presence is on the whole pathetic, compared to other Western democracies. All the main parties have decent websites and tick the boxes with their Twitter pages, Facebook accounts etc, but their efforts so far have been, frankly, unimaginative.

In addition, very few elected politicians have their own personal website or blog, and there are few internet debating sites of any renown outside of those provided by the main stream media.

So although these initiatives are welcome in part of the much-needed process of bringing citizens closer to their politicians in Spain, it would be safe to assume that the internet is not going to change the course of the election in any significant way.

The first party that truly cracks the problem of engaging effectively with voters online will be set to reap the benefits

Díez opens doors to electorate, bridging gap between voters and politicians

Those familiar with British politics are often surprised by the lack of a direct link in Spain between elected politician and constituent. Whereas in the UK Members of Parliament are expected to have regular direct contact with their electorate, and hold weekly “surgeries” to meet them and discuss issues, in Spain such encounters are much rarer, and the public’s interaction with politicians is more limited.

That is why the press is intrigued by the initiative of Rosa Díez (pictured), spokesman in the Congress for Unión Progreso y Democracia, to meet fortnightly for face-to-face chats with any members of the public who wish to see her.

Díez argues that starting a regular process of dialogue with citizens is good for politicians in order to keep them in touch with feelings on the streets. However, it has other attractions for politicians too.

El Mundo reports that this initiative is already reaping benefits for Díez, with positive comments from the fifteen people who met with her at her first “surgery”, One, a former PP activist, even signed up to her party.

Díez will hold her second “surgery” next week to accommodate the twenty people who she was unable see first time round due to time constraints.

More interaction between politician and electorate is always welcome, and Díez should be applauded. It remains to be seen if she will continue this initiative after the General Election, but hopefully she will, and others will follow lead.