Social media and Democracy in Kurdistan

555788_444500492304486_1993192437_nThroughout the world social media networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, have been utilised by politicians, leaders and political parties to engage with voters.

Similarly in Kurdistan, a trend has emerged where such networking sites are being utilised by political parties to communicate to potential voters, and shape media perceptions of their policies.

One of the most impressive campaigns that utilised social media, is perhaps the US President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2009. In contrast to that, the uprisings that shocked the entire Middle East in 2010 initially began by amassing the power of these newly available tools that were largely uncensored at the time, but are now facing increasing censorship in Middle East.

Although Kurdistan has yet to fully reach that stage where internet is accessible in every household, but increasingly the vast number of people have access to the internet, and are avid Facebook users, alongside several other networking sites.

Online civic engagement is still going through a transitory period in the region, but if the Kurdistan Regional Government launches initiatives to make the internet accessible to every household, and particularly within villages, democratic governance will be enhanced.

Democratic governance is improved where citizens have access to communication networking sites, furthering participatory democracy. It allows people to have a equal platform to vocalise concern, influence policy-making and be participatory voters in an informed manner.

It means people who ordinarily unaware of issues pertaining to the region have access to a vast amount of information, and wealth of knowledge online to understand the consequences of policies that are debated within the Kurdish parliament.

Modern communication websites have become intertwined with our daily activities. Communicating with family and friends in Kurdistan through Facebook is considered to be ‘normal’. It’s not a new phenomenon, and given that the social networking site has vast opportunity to change the politicised views of people, utilising it as a political tool has emerged to be of immense importance to politicians.

In the near future, we’ll be able to fully understand the impact social media has had on society, politics and Kurdish leadership, but in the meantime we can look into different societies to understand the positive impact of it.

The downside of social media is that in developing regions it tends to be very elitist. Even when accessible the polarised accounts online create ample opportunity for attempting to control political thought through pressure and various other ways users on social networking sites can become doctored professionals to falsify politicised messages for the purposes of serving political parties.

However, despite all the complications of social networking sites can have, it can serve the greater purpose of enhancing democracy — people’s choices are validated in participatory democracy, and social media can serve to be a driving tool towards that.

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