Italian elections 2013: social media and political participation

19 Feb

Italy’s general election has been called for on next 24-25 February. If you are Italian and living in a foreign Country without being registered with the AIRE (Anagrafe Italiana Residenti Estero, Register of Italian citizens abroad: applies only for stays longer than twelve months), the only way to participate elections held during your stay abroad is to travel back home.

This means that all Italians – from (exchange) students to (voluntary) workers – temporarily living in a foreign Country will have to consider whether they want their participation to the approaching elections easily to become their most expensive vote so far.

vogliovotare

Motivated by their will to vote and by the inequality of rights between Italian citizens themselves, and between Italians and other EU-citizens (the parliament in Rome has so far been unable to provide any legal framework for voting abroad such as those available, amongst others, to Dutch, British and French citizens, no matter how long their stay abroad is), a number of students took in January different initiatives meant both to stigmatize the problem and to call for symbolic (online) polls to be organized at the same time of the election in different foreign cities.

Here they are on a row:
Studenti italiani che non potranno votare alle prossime elezioni (Facebook page; Italian students that will not be able to vote in the next election);
Vogliovotare (I want to vote) and Iovotofuorisede (I vote ‘fuori sede’), for students enrolled at Italian Universities elsewhere than in their own hometown (‘fuori sede’);
Iovogliovotare (I want to vote), for all Italian citizens temporarily living abroad.

Waiting for next week-end to see how many people will take part in these symbolic polls (let alone what the results of the general elections themselves will be), the students’ initiative seems to me already one more example of the potential of social media to facilitate political participation, if not always on such a (dramatic) scale as from 2010 in Egypt (see amongst others Mark Lynch’s After Egypt: the limits and promise of online challenges to the authoritarian Arab State, access restrictions possible), certainly in a fashion that proves how an even enthousiastic will to participate the electoral process still exists amid the disheartenment about the value of political commitment which seems at times to typify the attitude of a majority of (not only) the Italian people.

Picture comes from www.vogliovotare.org.

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