Social Media and the Elections

FIJI: Social media on the rise before upcoming election

Social media is predicted to influence the 2014 Fiji election. Image: Fiji Sun
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Item: 8365
Rosi Doviverata
SUVA (Pacific Media Watch / Fiji Sun): For the first time in Fijian elections, the use of social media will be on overdrive as polling day next year draws nearer.
Political parties have no choice but to channel time and efforts to ensure such a platform is catered for.
This is simply because the sought after youth vote belongs, in part, to those who visit and spend hours browsing the World Wide Web.
The majority of Fiji’s population do not use social media, but while the numbers may be small, getting votes through social media will definitely be a factor for the parties, according to the Fiji Sun.
The US Presidential elections last year was won by Barack Obama because he won the social media battle. At least that is what commentators said. So what will parties do? 
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman Nirmal Singh said to engage the younger generation, PDP will use the social media as a platform. The party already has a Facebook forum with 419 members.

Facebook presence
The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) youth wing also hosts a Facebook forum
Similar to the PDP, those who wish to be part of the forum will need approval from one of the three administrators of the group.
At the time of writing, there was a total of 608 members of the SODELPA youth wing Facebook page.
The Fiji Labour Party’s Facebook page has attracted 120 members.
Fiji Democratic Forum has 1127 members. Administrator and moderator, Pita Tuiloma, said he created the forum to address pressing issues that affect regional and national issues.
“The main idea is to allow people in Fiji to understand their fundamental human rights which we are party to and to create awareness of pressing issues domestically particularly our political situation.”
“More importantly to get a wider perspective from Fijians around the globe on what they think would be best for Fiji,” Tuiloma said.

Generate discussions
The Masters of Diplomacy student at the University of the South Pacific said the idea was to generate discussions on social issues.
He explained that 70 to 80 per cent of Fiji Democratic Forum members reside abroad.
“These are the ones who are proactive in commenting and posting on the current situation in Fiji.”
“Majority of these are pro-regime in my analysis and are well educated in their field of discussions,” Tuiloma told the Fiji Sun.
Tuiloma works hard to make sure that only issues and facts are posted on the forum. He therefore censors and removes people who are deemed to be racists, sexist and contradict moral ethics.
Moderation does not apply to those running anonymous blog sites. Most are hosted overseas.
The popular ones include Coupfourpointfive, Fiji Today and Fiji Democracy Now. But their credibility is compromised by their lack of transparency, accuracy and often openly racist views on them.
What impact will social media have on the 2014 vote? The polls are still very unclear on that one. But political parties will, for sure, for the first time be factoring social media into their campaigns.
Rosi Doviverata is a Fiji Sun journalist and a graduate of the University of the South Pacific.

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Editor: Professor David Robie david.robie@aut.ac.nz 
Contributing Editor: Daniel Drageset  pmedia@aut.ac.nz
Pacific Media Centre: www.pmc.aut.ac.nz
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