A problem for me during the last European Elections in 2004 was finding out about candidates running for election. Although I couldn't vote and was sitting my Leaving Certificate I was interested in who was running and finding out more about the candidates in my constituency. In my constituency, Ireland South, there were ten candidates running for three seats. Of the ten, four were independents and not all of them campaigned in Cork so it was hard to find out much about them.
This year elections will be different thanks to two websites based and set up in Ireland. The first is Eurvote, which is just aimed at Irish voters. Eurvote have pages on all the candidates in the Irish Constituencies. Of course they are a bit behind as they already are missing Sean Kelly from the list for Ireland South, but they do have Declan Ganley on the list for Ireland North-West. Eurvote has a page on each candidate (here's Marian Harkin's (Ireland North-West) page as an example) with a link to their website which is handy. They also plan on doing events and are looking for constituents to write analysis in each constituency. Unfortunately I don't know who runs EurVote.org, as their about page is blank!
The second website is miCandidate.eu, which hasn't launched yet, but will in the next month. This is based on the MyCandidate.ie website which ran during the 2007 General Election here in Ireland, that website now redirects to miCandidate. MyCandidate.ie was described as "an exciting and crucial addition to democracy by putting useful information at the fingertips of citizens young and old." by Joe Zefran a News Editor with RTE.ie (received via email), so they are hoping that their European venture will have a big impact. MiCandidate.eu are currently putting together their database on candidates in all 27 member states, but not all seams to be right with them. According to Suzy of Mamanpoulet miCandidate.eu are putting pressure on candidates to sign up and pay up to have their information on this website. This is an example of an email sent to candidates.
We are very concerned that you are one of only a few remaining candidates who has not completed the information form that we sent you. Your profile will appear across dozens of Ireland’s busiest websites from RTE to the Irish Times. Failing to return this form to us in the next 48 hours may result in your profile being entirely empty. Given that candidates profiles were viewed nearly 4 million times in 2007 on RTE and the Irish Times you are giving your competitors in your constituency a huge advantage over you.
This is a free service, but we cannot stress the urgency that we need you to fill out your details. Seats are won and lost by a handful of votes, your competitors profiles will be viewed tens of thousands of times. Your profile will be empty.
Will the web have this type of impact on the European Elections? I don't think so. So should miCandidate be the top of your priority, probably not. Of course there is a paid version, which the Irish Green Party have signed up to for their candidates. Will it be worth the mone only time will tell and I hope that Fine Gael candidates wont spend money which could be spent on leaflets, which as Suzy points out can have the url to your blog/twitter/whatever and get people that can actually vote for you to engage with you. miCandidate are hyping up the net a bit too much in my opinion.
So there you have two websites one free and one free for us the voter, but possible not for the candidate, trying to inform us about the elections. Will they succeed? Will they actually inform people and get them to vote in the European Elections? Will they have an big impact or will they just be link farms to candidates websites, blogs, facebook/bebo pages and twitter accounts? Only time will tell.
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