New Candidatewatch platform launches today
It remains to be seen how much ’social’ or ‘online’ or ‘new media’ or ‘digital channels’ or whatever you’re having yourself will actually influence the outcome of General Election 2011. But there’s no doubt that the parties and individual candidates are paying a lot more attention to the tools offered by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate directly with voters. In the case of the larger parties, this often seems driven as much by a desire to be seen as down with the kids as by any real understanding of the potential (and the pitfalls) of new media.
In addition, a number of different online platforms are aiming to act as forums where voters can ask questions of candidates and track their answers over the course of the campaign. Some of these services appear to have been caught on the hop by the bringing forward of the election, and are struggling to get up and running in time to have an impact.
Today sees the launch of Candidatewatch, perhaps the most ambitious of these services. Originally set up in Germany, it has already operated during elections there and in Austria, Luxembourg and Ireland (the European Parliament elections in 2009). According to its founder, Gregor Hackmack, the objective is not just to facilitate communication over the course of the campaign, but to operate an ongoing service.
“We are planning to continue running the platform after the election,” says Hackmack. “This will enable voters to check whether the newly-elected TDs keep their campaign promises. Then, the questions of the electorate become yet more powerful.”
In Germany, since 2005, over 100.000 questions have been submitted by voters to more than 15,000 candidates and elected representatives. More than 80 per cent of these questions received a response. In 2010 the site, which is run by the non-profit ParliamentWatch. had 2.5 million users.
Check out Candidatewatch here and tell us what you think.