By ROSI DOVIVERATA
For the first time in Fijian elections, the use of social media will be on over drive as polling day draws nearer.
And political parties have no choice but to channel time and efforts to ensure such a platform is catered for.
This is simply because the most sought after vote (the youth vote) belongs, in part, to those who visit and spend hours browsing the world wide web.
Realistically, the majority of Fiji’s population do not use social media. But while the numbers may be small, getting votes through social media will definitely be a factor for the parties.
The US Presidential elections last year was won by Barak Obama because he won the social media battle. At least that’s what commentators said.
So what will parties here do?
People’s Democratic Party spokesman Nirmal Singh said to engage the younger generation, PDP will use the social media as a platform.
The party already has a Facebook forum with 403 friends.
The Social Democratic Liberal Party – Youth wing hosts a closed forum. Those who wish to be part of the forum will need approval from its administrator.
The SODELPA youth enjoy 607 friends.
The Fiji Labour Party also have a Facebook page. Their page has 116 online friends.
Facebook forums have also attracted a large following. Fiji Democratic Forum administrator and moderator, Pita Tuiloma says he created the forum to address pressing issues that affect regional and national issues.
“The main idea is to allow people in Fiji to understand their fundamental human rights which we are party to and to create awareness of pressing issues domestically particularly our political situation.
“More importantly to get a wider perspective from Fijians around the globe on what they think would be best for Fiji.”
The Masters in Diplomacy student at the University of the South Pacific said the idea was to generate discussions on social issues.
He believes that 70 to 80 per cent of those in the Fiji Democratic Forum reside abroad.
“These are the ones who are proactive in commenting and posting on the current situation in Fiji.
“Majority of these are pro-regime in my analysis and are well educated in their field of discussions,” Mr Tuiloma said.
Making sure that only issues and facts are posted on the forum, Mr Tuiloma censors and removes people who are deemed to be racists, sexist and contradict moral ethics.
Moderation does not apply to those running anonymous blog sites. Most are hosted overseas. The popular ones include Coup 4.5, Fiji Today and Fiji Democracy Now.
But their credibility is compromised by their lack of transparency, accuracy and often openly racist views on them.
What impact will social media have on the 2014 vote?
The polls are still very unclear on that one. But political parties will, for sure, for the first time be factoring social media into their campaigns.