Abdul Rahman Dahlan, secretary general of the United Malays National Organization party’s youth wing insists that all electoral candidates start blogging. He says, “all candidates must have blogs…If not, they are not qualified to be leaders”.
I came across a blog post by Loic le Meur which showed the same faith in politicians blogging. After reading his list of ’10 reasons why politicians should blog’, I decided to compile a list of ‘5 reasons why South African politicians should blog’.
ONE: at the moment it is close to impossible to get a hold any political leader, especially the higher up they are in the political ladder. A politician’s blog allows supporters greater access to them. They can post up their speeches and ideas and open them up for comment from the public.
TWO: when run effectively, blogs are a open forum for debate and criticism. If democracy refers to “a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them”, leaders need to know what the public is thinking. Open more spaces for disucussion and criticism would serve to strengthen a democracy.
THREE: politicians can use their blog to test, exchange and share their ideas in a decentralized fashion. At the moment, the main source of information is the government’s and the various political organization’s official websites. The problem is, as noted in a previous post, these sites do not often offer effective feedback options.
FOUR: blogs would allow for a shift in the way leaders communicate with their supporters and the rest of the population. Official websites take on a formal tone that reflects not a bit of personality. Blogs, however are laid back and far more personal mediums of communication.
Thabo Mbeki has always been seen to have been an aloof president, without feeling or personality and who never engaged with the masses as is seen in some of Zapiro’s work. Now I’m not saying that a simple blog would have solved all his problems and done away with all criticism, but it would have allowed the public access to a more personal side to him.
FIVE: making use of blogs, other social and mobile media and web 2.0 strategies, politicians can reach a younger audience. Part youth leagues could make use of the ever so popular Facebook to gain support and engagement from the youth. Le Meur argues that “the Internet is the medium of the young” and I can’t say I disagree.
They are however reasons to believe that, especially in South Africa, we still have a long way to go before political blogging can be done effectively. This will be covered in next week’s post.