Ahead of a parliamentary election in Georgia set for October 2012, David Bakradze, Chair of the current Parliament, is currently the most active member of the ruling party on Facebook. His official page, with 27,526 likes at time of writing, includes photos of visits and meetings as well as of his family. Bakradze has also launched a game called Elections where each person liking his page can run for position of virtual parliamentary chair.
The rules are simple: One can register as a candidate or vote for another, with those intending to run for the position able to fill in a brief bio and invite friends to elect them. The candidate attracts the most votes will become the virtual parliament chair with four runner-ups ‘elected’ as virtual vice-speakers.
Bakradze is one of the most Facebook-friendly members of the ruling party. In August, 2011, Bakradze invited the most active members of his page to parliament for an informal meeting and a guided tour, and last month Bakradze invited ten more to his office. Bakradze told journalists that the game aims to attract the interest of youth in election and to encourage communication between the government and citizens.
Nevertheless, reaction from public seems to be mixed with some thinking that the initiative is good while others say that it’s a waste of time. One comment on Facebook, for example, simply said that “soon we’ll elect the president with “Likes” while others thought it “a step forward in the governmental penetration of Facebook.”
“Chiti” (Bird), the Georgian equivalent of The Onion News weighed in with its own satirical take.
თბილისი, 21 სექტემბერი – სოციალურ ქსელ Facebook-ზე პარლამენტის თავმჯდომარის ინიციატივას, “ვირტუალური არჩევნები,” მხოლოდ სიმბოლური დატვირთვა არ ექნება. პარლამენტის აპარატის მიერ გავრცელებულ განცხადებაში ნათქვამია, რომ თამაშში გამარჯვებული ადამიანი, დავით ბაქრაძესთან ერთი დღის გატარებასთან ერთად ხელფასსა და პენსიასაც მიიღებს.
At present, 760 people have joined in the virtual election and the ‘candidate’ currently holding first place has 328 votes. More significantly, perhaps, the move marks continuing efforts by the Georgian government to harness the power of social media.