Has Politics 2.0 arrived in Portugal?

[este artigo foi originalmente publicado no blog Personnal Democracy a 03.09.2009]

Portugal is living an Elections year. During 2009, European Parliament elections took place on the 7th of June. The Legislative elections will be held on September 27th and on October 11th the Portuguese people will choose their representatives of local governments.

Despite interest that “Politics 2.0” has been generating on media and online, there aren’t many significant developments in political technologies for and by the people. As in rest of the world, Barack Obama’s elections strategy was a closely watched case study that inspired great interest here. Indeed, there were reports saying that Blue State Digital was hired by PS (Socialist Party in government) to implement actions online, a fact that was soon revealed to be not really true. The national and Brazilian spin doctors are still in charge of political marketing strategies.

With a month or so to Legislative Elections 2009, parties have been doing some online actions, but for the most part prefer the old way to interact with public: gatherings, outdoors, travelling on the street to talk with citizens (and TV cameras). Their main actions online have been:

– Meetings with bloggers and Web influencers by major parties (PS and PSD, the opposition party);

– Although there are many politicians and parties with accounts on Twitter (check Twitica), taking a look at the most popular parties’ Internet sites, we have an impression that they don’t use social networks at all. The better practices are from minor new parties like MEP and MMS, and the legislative elections portal created by PSD (Politica de Verdade). This is perhaps not surprising, as upstart parties have more to gain from going online, while the major parties may fear the inevitable loss of control that comes with the territory.

– Most major online campaigning is being done by youth or “independent” citizens linked to the political parties in blogosphere, Twitter and other social networks. For example, Papa MyZena (linked to PSD) and SIMplex (linked to PS) both say that are not affiliated to parties but discuss right and left political views and some persons have relations with parties;

– Vídeo and audio sharing is part of the latest campaign innovations. PS has created MovTV, PSD and minor parties have a Youtube channel. In rare occasions there have been streaming video from events and even some interactions with online questioners;

PS has a kind of social network called MyMov, where people can, for example, expose their ideas.

– Some political parties also have actions on site to recollect private funds for campaigning. Political parties are public finance in Portugal.

The press, TV and radio media have been covering Politics 2.0 topic with some debates and reports. A good media initiative is Eleições 2009, a blog from Público newspaper that brings together various bloggers with all kind of political perspectives and expressing different political views.

Besides Twitica, another site is an interesting tool for citizens. Through a questionnaire, Bússola Eleitoral predicts the political party that fits best with the person who answers a series of questions.

Bottom line: politics 2.0 in Portugal is an early stage. Technically, there are innovations but there are no trends or viral behaviours that have really been embraced by large numbers of citizens. After all, trust matters and online networks are only a tool that political parties have to guarantee with actions while on power positions.

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