How to Deal with Observing too many Elections
[Guest post by Septimius Parvu. Septimius Parvu is the Deputy director of Pro Democracy Association, one of the most experienced Romanian non-governmental organizations. He has worked in the NGO sector, especially with good governance related projects, including transparency, access to public information, public integrity and has collaborated intensely with the public authorities. Having graduated political sciences, he is accustomed to the electoral systems and therefore has coordinated the latest observation missions for elections and referendum and was responsible for identifying and developing new media tools, useful for reporting frauds and irregularities. ]
In Romania, 2012 is one of the busiest years if we talk about elections. Although, according to the practice the government should have organized only local and parliamentary elections, the evolution of the political situation determined at least one more electoral moment – the referendum for dismissing the president. The difficult and agitated state of the political background could also determine anticipated presidential elections, at the end of the year.
Under these circumstances, the process of monitoring and observing the elections seems to be more and more difficult, as the financial, human and time resources are more limited with each new ballot. Pro Democracy Association – our organization – had to find therefore an alternative instrument that would help receive information from any interested citizen. Although PDA observes elections since the nineties, being one of the first NGOs in Romania and one of the most important that monitors the electoral process, this is the first year when new media instruments have been used. Apart from Facebook and Twitter – that were also used in the past – we decided to use Ushahidi, in order to be able to pinpoint irregularities and frauds all over the country. Under these conditions we have developed the platform Alegeri Corecte.
Promotion and Outreach are Important
One of the most important tasks was to promote the platform, so that a significant number of users would be informed about it. For promoting it we have used multiple means. Firstly, we have done partnerships with national TV and radio stations that helped us promote our campaign and mostly our two instruments: the website and a hotline – Telverde 0800 070 100 – were interested citizens can call and ask for information or report frauds. Also, we used our newsletter database and repeated press releases in order to promote the website. A third means of promotion was through paid Facebook ads. Due to the raised interest in the referendum and the local elections, the mass media have distributed the information frequently.
After receiving the reports, our mobile and central teams tried to verify the information and send it to the relevant institutions – such as the Police, the county and Central Electoral Bureau, to the prosecutor’s office – in order to be further investigated. The course of the investigation will be followed by our volunteers and the results will be constantly published on the website.
Impact of Alegeri Corecte
The platform had an interesting impact as it has drawn a significant number of users from the rural areas, although in this environment the access to internet is quite reduced. Also, the users are becoming more and more interested and we are trying to keep them as constant reporters by continuously sending reminders and communications regarding the results of the investigation of their reports.
The website also envisaged an informative section which contained useful information, such as legislation, frequently asked questions, voters’ guides, observers’ subscription rules and so on.
If we take a wider look, although this type of platform is a new instrument in Romania it’s becoming more and more popular. We will be using the website and develop it further more also for the future ballots, as we have incoming elections for the president, for the MPs and for the European MPs. We will also consolidate one of its main objectives, engaging citizens and will develop on-line communities, introduce advised opinions by experts and further develop the educational section.
We recommend the platform for all those who intend to observe the elections and want to use a reliable, inexpensive and useful tool.