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If the number of web based initiatives was anything to go by then June’s European Elections are gearing up to be rather interesting. What impact all of these initiatives will have on turnout, interest in the elections etc. remains to be seen. But for now here’s a summary of the initiatives that I’ve come across, and my first thoughts about them.

EU Profiler is the first vote match tool to be released. The basic idea is that you answer a bunch of questions and the website tells you which party / parties you are closest to. Fellow euroblogger Nanne has commented more about his experience with the site. The tech of the website is quite smooth, but I wonder about the choice of questions – in the UK version I took half of the questions were about issues that the European Parliament cannot decide. So while the results might be accurate in party political terms, are they accurate in terms of explaining what the EP does? I rather think not. A version of Votematch – simpler, easier and more accurate than EU Profile – has now also been launched, building on the 2004 EU Elections Votematch that I was involved with launching – you can still take the 2004 test here.

Then there are the initiatives that try to showcase what MEPs have been doing (or not doing) over the course of the Parliamentary term. Parlorama.eu looks the most promising of these so far, although most of the info is only in French at the moment. The site however seems to disproportionately use data about MEPs’ attendance at plenary sessions – not a good yardstick in my mind as it’s easy to send of muppet MEPs to the plenary session and get them to vote. It’s harder to get such individuals to do good legislative work.

There are 2 sites looking at how Parliament legislates – EPvote.eu which is more or less running already, and VoteWatch.eu that was launched in May with some fanfare in Brussels. The EPC think tank is behind VoteWatch so it has some promise.

When it comes to election outcomes Predict09 is an effort by Simon Hix and others to predict the likely composition of the Parliament – they have underestimated support for eurosceptics I fear, and their methodology does not take turnout into account, but it’s an interesting initiative.

No time for in depth reading of MEPs’ blogs and websites? Then perhaps Europa Tweets is the answer – is an aggregator of all the MEPs and European Election candidates using Twitter.

Last but not least if you want an intellectual challenge you can have a go at Die Zeit’s EP election quiz – in German.

[UPDATE 7.5.09]
A new website from the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) has been launched – ElectionCampaign.eu looks at MEPs’ positions on 4 issues of openness and transparency. Looks like a good initiative!

[UPDATE 13.5.09]
If you want to find out who your local candidates are try micandidate.eu for a selection of European countries, or Wikipolitik.eu for Germany.

[UPDATE 1.6.09]
A further new site from Burson-Marsteller – TweetElect09 to follow European election debate on Twitter.

(note: a few links in this entry have been updated as sites have been launched)

13 Comments

  1. Yes, Election powered with Web 2.0 it’s a great idea
    hope not bring a new problem 😉

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  4. Jhn Dodd

    Great post. Have you come across this website http://www.micandidate.eu.

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  6. It looks like the EU profiler comes from Kieskompas and Votematch (the one you said you were associated with in 2004) is using IPP technology.

    I made my views clear on the Kieskompas technology here:

    http://www.freesteel.co.uk/wpblog/2009/02/angry-notes-on-a-foreign-election-quiz/

    Do you think there is an issue with the way that these vote compass type websites (a) don’t evolve over the years in any visible way, and (b) contain no links outwards to other sites that create democratic involvement (eg telling you how to join the party you support) — is something to care about?

    I think we’ve got to get A LOT more critical of these well-funded efforts. What was innovative in 2004 is not acceptable now.

  7. Thanks for the comment – interesting! I do agree that things have not moved on since 2004, apart perhaps from some vague use of Facebook and Twitter to promote things.

    I was involved with Votematch in 2004 – not because I was especially inspired by their technology, but because 2 friends and I wanted to do something for the EP elections and IPP were willing to let us use their tech if we did the research. I think the results from the 2004 Votematch are actually OK – it’s simple to use, and in a small way we made an impact with it. But I am no real fans of IPP either…

  8. @Jon: Thank you for listing EPVote.

    @Julien: You, and for that matter anybody else, are more then welcome to participate in EPVote.

    I have added the “Agora” section, where EU citizens are welcome to cast their votes on texts that are to be voted at the European Parliament in the hope that in the long run we will be able to influence the EP:

    Upcoming “participatory” features will include discussions forums for each texts and petitions.

    Laurent

  9. Daniel:

    Voting does not work like rational choice theory has been claiming for centuries. People vote for parties that they feel closest to themselves in terms of values

    Can I just say that, as a rational choice theorist, I agree with you, and wonder if your understanding of the theory is a little tainted? I was taught it by a professor who is a little to the left of me (and has now emigrated to Australia), and it’s nowhere near as prescriptive as its detractors seem to think (it’s also best used for FPTP elections but that’s another issue).

    Anyway, Jon, I don’t think it matters whether the policies are EU relevant or not. I think it does matter whether the parties are campaigning on them. If, for example, on Parliament specific issues, UKIP had a big pile of policies I agreed on, and the Lib Dems didn’t, I still couldn’t bring myself to vote for UKIP.

    Of course, who I will be voting for is yet to be decided, we’re bang in the middle of the seat barriers in West Yorks, odds are good we will neither gain nor lose an MEP, so I might put my vote elsewhere for tactical reasons (I’d rather a Green than a BNPer for example).

    Oh, Profiler put me almost bang on top of the Lib Dems, which makes sense.

  10. Kosmopolito

    Parlorama.eu already shut down “due to the overwhelming volume of complaints”

  11. Without starting a discussion about what web 2.0 is, don’t you think that the initiatives presented are rather one-way streets, designed by certain people or initiatives and used by “us”, the citizens, but our participation doesn’t have an influence on what they do or how they do it?

    In my understanding of the term, that is not too web-2.0-ish… (which doesn’t mean the initiatives are bad)

  12. Kosmopolito

    According to this letter in EurActiv, votewatch.eu is a EPC project, not a CEPS project:
    http://euractiv.blogactiv.eu/2008/12/02/votewatcheu-new-online-tool-to-monitor-eu-decision-makers/

    I do share your general assessment of the tools. Probably europatweets is the only “web 2.0” tool as it can be used to connect and interact with MEPs. Predic09 is really an academic exercise I guess. Parlorama is quite dissapointing I have to say. The used data does not seem to reflect the quality of an MEP. EUProfiler is an interesting thing but I expected a bit more given the prominent partners behind the project. There is also the danger that people think that the issues of the “non-EU” questions are actually potential EP competences, and we all know how quickly eurosceptics use these kind of arguments…

    For all these tools it seems that oversimplification of EU issues is the cause for the all the shortcomings.

  13. Dániel Fehér

    Hey Jon,

    First of all, I think the answer to your title question is yes – although most of your examples are pretty much Web 1.0, apart from the Twitter aggregator maybe.

    The only advantage of the Predict09 page is that it’s trying to give a summary of all member states. Alas, the methodology they use for “predicting” the result in each single country is more than questionable – and therefore the final result is also pretty useless. It would be more useful/interesting/2.0 to have something along the lines of the Flash maps that realclearpolitics.com and other sites had during the US elections; where you can input your own expected values and get the aggregated total.

    Concerning the Euprofiler, I don’t agree with you. Voting does not work like rational choice theory has been claiming for centuries. People vote for parties that they feel closest to themselves in terms of values. And justifiedly so, because no party can foresee all issues of importance that will show up in the next 4-5 years in its programme. So it matters more that you can assume that, whatever the question is, they would decide along the same lines like you would – and that’s where values and credibility come into the picture.

    And values don’t tend to care about the distribution of competences within the EU. Just like 99% of voters.

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