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Trolls to Newcastle: the rise of social media come election time

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Coalition, you ask? Not likely, I should think. Granted it is always a mathematical possibility, regardless how faint. But the polls we have seen to date would seem to suggest otherwise; although a lot, of course, can happen between the time polls were taken and the day of the election.

Like a couple of hurricanes? Sure, which have cut into canvassing, assuming that candidates and their parties believe this is still the most effective way to introduce yourself and win voters over. Meanwhile, looming over it all is the continuing pandemic, which has put a crimp on canvassing style. Conversations occur on the doorstep now, not in kitchens or living rooms. So it has become harder to get a feel for voters who are undecided and who may swing.

Social media has in turn emerged as the parties' preferred means to get their messages out. But this is mostly one way and not everyone's means of communication. Detailed platforms were late out of the gate (understatement).

Lots of positioning and posturing, though — although that counts, too. Voters do tend to look to the party that they believe can best lead Bermuda through difficult times ahead and — and this is key — which party they can trust to have their backs when tough decisions have to be made.

No wonder party supporters and hacks spend a fair amount of time trolling; so many of them, too many of them, hiding behind anonymous, multiple handles. BTW, the word “trolls” seems entirely appropriate these days. It was a mythological description for dwarfs. The reference, I think, was to stature. To that we can now add intellect and character.

But what the heck, party fervour we can all understand, and discount. There is the usual clamour for debates — quite rightly, too — but it is a call that seems to come and go with general elections, and soon forgotten after the votes are counted. This seems to be the way of most electoral reform. Pity. Remember the promise of fixed-term elections?

We shouldn't be left to have to devise procedures and rules in the heat of a campaign. This is where an independent electoral commission, set up along the lines of the Boundaries Commission, could be most effective, working with the Parliamentary Registrar. Rules for campaigns would be put in place before an election is called and administered without fear or favour, regardless of who is in power.

But a coalition government? Well, first, let's be clear here: if it is what the voters want, it will be what the voters get. Coalition governments are not that unusual. Elsewhere. They have just never occurred here or even come close to occurring; and third parties and/or independents have fared poorly since the introduction of responsible government in 1968.

A coalition government also happens to be a horse of a completely different parliamentary colour. Third parties and/or independents come to control the balance of power. Votes [in the Legislature] become very, very important — to stay in power and to enjoy any success in governing. As the old saying goes, when the coalition government was asked upon election what they had planned, their spokesman replied: we are not prepared to comment on specific numbers at this time.

The experience elsewhere is that the politics of governing under coalitions is that they become more transactional than transformational and, in short time, become transitional, leading on to yet another election and a majority government.

Not surprisingly the new Free Democratic Movement has stated that it is open to forming a coalition government — and with either of the two parties. With 15 candidates, this is frankly the best that it can hope to do.

It was a late entry in the electoral sweepstakes, and while spontaneity can be a wonderful thing in politics, it is no substitute for the hard work that is needed to put together and capitalise on a sustained and successful election campaign.

Campaigning is never easy, even in the best of times, and the irony is here that the electoral chances for those looking for a breakthrough appear to get better when it looks to the voters like it is the worst of times.

We there? The answer next week.

Members of the Free Democratic Movement on Nomination Day (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 24, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 24, 2020 at 2:03 pm)

Trolls to Newcastle: the rise of social media come election time

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