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Sri Lankan Presidential Election: Social Media In Election Reporting

In less than 24 hours Sri Lankan voters will start to vote to decide who will be their 6th president. The intense campaign of the candidates on the roads have also pumped the adrenaline of the netizens as many are rallying behind their choice of candidates and providing useful information to the voters as well as taking up the task of online election reporting.

Sanjana Hattotuwa of ICT For Peacebuilding (ICT4Piece) has recently delivered a lecture at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism on the use of social media in election reporting. He discussed how social media tools like Flickr, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Wikipedia etc. are being used or can be used for the election campaigns.

He then discussed the use of social media in election monitoring. Examples included ‘The Centre For Monitoring Election Violence‘ site, which publishes daily monitoring report and updates location based mapping of the incidents using Google Maps.

Indrajit goes on to show how Facebook and twitter are also used for election monitoring.

Nibras Bawa at Groundviews analyzed the online election campaigns of the candidates:

Mahinda’s online campaign has the technology, not the vision, not because they don’t understand computers, but because they don’t understand how to make technology harness the passion of their supporters. His campaign team is everywhere online, but they don’t mobilize voters and organize communities. They don’t build a consensual database of mobile numbers by promising that in return, supporters would get campaign news before the media.

I am yet to see Fonseka’s online strategy. He shouldn’t confine himself to an amateur website and a few Facebook Ads. It shows one’s capacity or the lack of it.

While there are allegations that Sri Lanka’s Election Commission failed to promote a campaign on voting, some citizen media sites like Lanka Rising are providing valuable information on ‘how to vote':

There is always an element of doubt in the mind of some people in casting vote in elections in Sri Lanka because different elections use subtle variations of use of preferential voting system. However, if you know the simple rules of voting in presidential election together with using commonsense will make your voting a very simple task. (Read the rest here).

Indrajit Samarajiva at Indi.ca also posts some useful information regarding voting:

NOTE THAT YOU DON’T NEED TO HAVE THE POLLING CARD TO VOTE IF YOUR NAME IS IN THE REGISTRATION LIST. Make sure that you carry with you your NIC or any other recognized picture ID with you when you go to vote.

Ranjith Wijewardene at Lanka Page depicts a specimen of a ballot paper.

Beyond Borders asserts why every Sri Lankan voter should vote:

Because you should, because you have a responsibility, and if you don’t, then please spare us your arm chair politics. If you don’t think your voice should count, then you might as well be silent.

Other information available online include Transparency International's special report on election expenditure, survey predictions etc.

Meanwhile the Twittersphere is catching up with the election madness, however, the use of specific hashtags was not seen:

sukub: Srilanka- Since November 23, a total of 897 incidents of election related violence has been reported.

VoteglobalSouthAsia: Sri Lanka opposition warns of election coup (AFP)http://bit.ly/8dpND0 #SriLanka

slelections: RT #srilanka campaign laws banning ads on final days & cutouts etc is silly and unenforceable. #slelection… http://bit.ly/6SC3zX

ChandruPandian: Looks like Rajapaksa is walking a lonely path…the rest of the world seems to be turning against him #srilanka #lka #win

Both of the major candidates, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka held their last rallies. Whether to put the verdict on “presidential promises, or for a change” – it seems that the voters are at crossroads.

But nevertheless Sri Lankans like Cerno share this optimism:

Whoever wins we’ll move on to something better.

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