The Kathmandu Post, Sanjeev Giri, 15th May 2017, Kathmandu
Social media, which has emerged as a powerful tool in recent days for reaching out to large audience, has made a major impact on the first round of local elections that took place after two decades. While it is arguable whether promotional activities launched by political parties through social media has widen their votebase, this new medium seems to have motivated people to realise the need to participate in the democratic practice.
Buzz created on facebook and twitter—two major platforms on social media in Nepal—played a crucial role in motivating young voters who are exercising their franchise for the first time.
According to the Election Commission, around 1.9 million new voters will be participating in these elections, compared to the second Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in 2013.
The fact that the social media had a significant impact on the election can be gauged by the fact that hashtag (#) nepalvotes, LocalPolls2017 and Election2017 trended throughout the day in twitter and facebook.
According to Social Aves, one of the leading social and digital media marketing agency in Nepal, 28,743 pictures related to voting, 245,384 facebook status about election and 76,376 tweets about election were recorded till 7pm on Sunday alone. Likewise, 87,569 people used election application on facebook to say they have voted.
Such posts, especially coming from public figures, elderly and differently able people, have played a crucial role in raising awareness about the elections, spurring on the public to exercise their voting right, experts say.
“The impact of social media in the local elections is huge. This is because of increasing technological advance and growing technical literacy among Nepalis,” said Ravi Singhal, chief executive of Social Aves.
Seeing the potent of social media, political parties and leaders, according to Singhal, have focused on the medium this time. “Talking about expenditure, it has increased by around 20 times compared with the second CA elections. Not only are the leaders focusing their attention to social media but the parties are also getting involved institutionally,” he said, referring to creation of special contents put up on social media by the major political forces like Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre). BibekSheel Nepali and Sajha Party—new players into politics—have been more aggressive in the use of the social media platforms to reach out to voters.