Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Flash: Election Day in The Netherlands

Today the inhabitants of The Netherlands go to the ballot box in order to elect a new government. It will be the fourth government in four years (a record in Dutch parliamentary history).

The elections have lead to a flurry of internet activities. There is a series of election guidance systems, but there are also sites where voters give advice to the party leaders. Games are developed. Politicians attempt to make friends in social networks.

One of the most used tools is the election guidance system Stemwijzer (VoteMatch). Within a week from the launch more than 1 million vote matches were given out. During the last elections more than 2.2 million vote matches were given out in 51 days. The election guidance system is not without competitors. Following other principles these systems throw light in a different way on the election items.

At the University of Amsterdam they developed a search engine. Voters can key in a subject and will get statements on the subject as recorded in the election programs of the 16 parties

Another approach is the site which gives free consultancy to the party leaders. The Liberals are advised to claim the successes of the last government, while a Silvia advises the Socialist party leader to start wearing a tie, if he wants to become the new Prime Minister.

A first in this election was the use of social networks by politicians. The present Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende has joined the social network Hyves, which has two million profiles. Within half a year, his profile attracted the number of 40.000 friends.

A public broadcast company launched the tower game; the tower symbolises the centre of government in The Hague. Upon registration the player can start running for office by using a party leader.

I had expected also a Google Earth application like in this year’s US race of the House and the Senate. And until last Monday I did not see any Google application. A reason for this might be that contrary to the US elections, the Dutch politicians do not have to convince local populations. But on Monday night the municipality of Amsterdam came up with a map of the city of Amsterdam with the locations of voting stations.

Despite the dep penetration of internet in The Netherlands, no voting by internet is allowed in the country itself. Roughly 21.500 Dutch people abroad can vote by internet since last Saturday.

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Blog Posting Number 578

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