Role of Social Media in presidential election

31 Oct

socialFor the first time in history of Azerbaijani social media played a significant role in covering presidential elections intensively. In October 2013 people planned and organized protests on Facebook. 

During the pre-election campaign social networks served as theonly alternativesource of information. Opposition party members were actively using social media, mostly Facebook, to provoke people’s protest.While the government strictly controls traditional media, social networks are the only ways for opposition to share their visions to Azerbaijani citizens.

On 14 May the government did some preventing to limit the activity on social media. Parliamentary adopted special amendments to the law N147 and N148 of the Criminal Code of establishing legal punishment of up to six month imprisonment for the users of the social networks who will try to violate the rules.

New amendments are primarily targeted to the Facebook activists who have been enjoying freedom to criticize Azerbaijani government. At the same time some popular page Xilas” and “Istefa” of Azerbaijani opposition suddenly disappeared. There were claims that it was done by pro-governmental people.

There are 1.3 million social networks users in Azerbaijan and they are actively following the updates especially before Election Day. A day prior the elections pro-oppositional online MEYDAN TV shared information about new initiative from the Central Election Commission (CEC).
On October 8, a scandal erupted over the new IOS and Android application that Azerbaijan’s Central Election Commission (CEC) planned to launch for voters to follow the presidential election vote count on their mobile phones on Election Day, October 9. But Meydan TV published a screenshot of the application one day before presidential election which showing the outcome of the election in the 58th election constituency Hacigabul-Kurdamir under the caption “Initial Results of Elections.” The results awarded 72.76 percent (11337 votes) for incumbent President IlhamAliyev, 7.4 percent (1153 votes) for the single opposition candidate JamilHasanli, and other opposition candidate 5.24 percent (817 votes) for GudratHasanguliyev.
After this scandal opposition candidate claimed it was the proof of expected falsification. A few hours later, the developer of the application, VusalIsayev, was claimed in social media that it was as test and we want do test new program also all this information is previous election result.
Though the initiativewas discussed for a long time.Because in previous election main opposition candidate CamilHasnliwas not candidate to presidential election. The same time it was one of the most leading not only local but also international media. The Al Jazeera, CNBC, Reuters and other international media write article about this scandal.
International media, international organizations used videos, photos spread through social media. Social media was the only source of information from the eyewitnesses, which gave transparent picture about the presidential elections in Azerbaijan.

On October 2 NatigMamadov, the secretary of the Central Election Commission in Azerbaijan, stated that if election-related propaganda, massive campaigns in social networks impact the election results, it should be prevented.
However, National Consul candidateand social activists continued using social networks actively. For instance MehmanHuseynov, the well-known pro-democracy blogger shot, video,which got over 17,000 views since October 1.Huseynov was imprisoned on October 2, shortly after the video was uploaded on YouTube. He was released after three hours. Many social network users shared this video and the video become more popular in Azerbaijan than it was before presidential elections and before his imprisonment.
Directorof Information Technology, Internet and Media Organization (ITIM),AzerNazarov, said that this time the pro-governmental decided to prepare agitation video for social networks, not for TV channel.
“They used all advantages of social networks. They made a good quality video and uploaded it on YouTube, shared it on Facebook and Twitter intensively,” he said. Nazarov compared opposition’s campaign in social media to the powerful governmental propaganda – “The results show that pro-governmental forcesworked much more effectively, were much more managed and organized, – he said.
“Opposition gave preference to Twitter. Twitter is still a battlefield of hash tag dominance between opposition and pro-governmental forces”, – Nazarovstated.  According to Nazarov during the campaigns social media was used by politicians to humiliate and abuse each other.
According to “Social bakers analytics” during last month the fastest-growing popularity on Facebook in Azerbaijan had opposition candidate CamilHasanli’s official page. IlhamAliyev came right after him.

Voters supporting eather opposition or ruling party candidate published their ballot photos on Facebook. From 8:00 am numerous videos with cases of violations were posted on Facebook and YouTube.In one video a person was throwing six ballotsinto the box it was first scandal video on Election Day in Azerbaijan. As soon asthe video appearedon Facebook pro-governmental forces tried to proveit was fake.
Presidential elections in Azerbaijan were held on October 9. The total number of voters around Azerbaijan was 5.145.643 though only 3.720.643 of them (72.31%) took part in voting process.
Social Media activism had so far no impact on the results of the elections. The head of Central Election Commission,MazahirPanahov, announced IlhamAliyevwinning the elections with 84.54% of votes, while the main opposition candidate CamilHanasli got only 5.53 %.

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