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Opinions of Saturday, 15 December 2012

Columnist: Mubarik, Abu

Social Media transformed election 2012.

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This year’s presidential and parliamentary elections moved Ghanaians a lot closer to the internet – with political parties’ campaigns turning to online ads, targeting and using social media in an incredible way. Notable social media platforms included Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Blogger and Google+

Never have social media played a deep, broad and pivotal role in the nation’s elections. It is here to stay. For a good reason: Social media is where young voters are, and it's where they share their opinions and engage in endless debate. Facebook and Twitter users partake in civil and political activity. Ignoring that audience would be irrational.

On the eve of Election Day, Ghana saw a campaign unlike any in history. Political campaigning is barred on traditional media a day to general elections. Political parties had to capitalise on social media platforms to continue with their campaign ads.

On elections day, not only did they vote, they tweeted. They facebooked. And they used the platform to encourage voters who are yet to cast their votes to do so. They used the platform to tell the world where, how and when they voted.

Inching to noontime, Ghana Decides became the most tweeted event in Ghana’s political history. It trended on twitter. using the twitter handle @GhanaDecides made politics in Ghana a communal experience. People could easily look out for elections issues under it branded hash tag #GhanaDecides. The website provided live updates as well.

‘Crazy’ issues came up. Twitter and Facebook told them: alleged violence and stealing of ballot boxes in some part of the regions went viral; faulty biometric verification equipment; long queues; Sir John, the NPP General Secretary came under severe criticism as well, when he called the elections in favour of his party; post electoral claims of rigging in favour of the ruling NDC still dominate social media.

As never before, people tweeted and uploaded Facebook pictures of their thumb-printed ballot paper indicating where they voted. This was against electoral laws on the secret of the vote.

At the close of polls, people tweeted and facebooked election results announced at various polling stations. At a point, the platform went gay with electoral results and as it emerged that the NDC was in the lead, NDC trended on Twitter.

Prior to Election Day, “Ghana Decides” launched a project called Our Vote Our Voice on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook to encourage voters to vote in their numbers on 7 December. Prior to that, they had launched a project under the hash tag #iregistered. This was meant to encourage Citizens who were of the voting age to register to enable them vote in this year’s elections.

Never in our history have voters gained quick access to information on Election Day. All applause must go to Blogging Ghana that started it all.

Follow me on Twitter @abumubarik

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