Estonian Parliament elections 2011: Analysis of online campaigns

E-democracy | Governance and Engagement
E-democracy | Governance and Engagement
Project manager
Kristina Reinsalu, PhD
Funded by
EU Structural Funds Programme "Raising Public Awareness about the Information Society"

Elections are an important milestone by which the state of democracy as well as the level of political and civil society development can be measured. Undoubtedly, the rapid development of information society affects elections, one of the main instruments of representative democracy. This has resulted in both positive and negative changes. E-voting could be considered to have a positive effect, as it makes it easier for people to fulfil their civic duties even if they are out of the country or otherwise unable to go to the voting booths. However, the transition of elections to the Internet also introduces risks that derive from the fact that it is an environment that operates on a different logic compared to the traditional environment of pre-election competition.

The present article is an analysis of the online campaigns of the 2011 Riigikogu elections. The analysis was largely conducted between February 14 and March 1, 2011. In addition to experts at the e-Governance Academy, BA and MA students of communication management at the University of Tartu were involved in the analysis under Kristina Reinsalu’s supervision.

In addition to the detailed descriptions of the campaigns and general evaluation, the article also points out the changes that have occurred since past elections and answers the question whether the electorate’s possibilities to get thorough, updated and balanced information in order to make an informed decision in the elections have significantly improved with the development of information society? Another question pertains to interactivity: do citizens receive feedback and is there a dialogue with them? Next to links to various environments and videos, the analysis is illustrated with screen shots from campaign ads. Whenever possible, the discussion of every environment analysed is accompanied by references to and comments on previous studies and theories.

The final section, the Conclusion, points to the main trends and relevant conclusions in the elections as a whole. With all of the online environments analysed, attention was also paid to whether the campaigns adhered to the Good Elections Practices; this is discussed under a separate section in the Conclusion.

There is also an overview of the numerous election games (the Voter Compass created by the e-Governance Academy and the Estonian Public Broadcasting company, the Election Game on Delfi, etc.), the multitude and popularity of which we were unable to predict when compiling the methods for the present analysis.