31st Mar 2020

Blue and simple Liberals

  • "Refreshingly free of lengthy texts" (Photo: EUobserver)

After the revolutionary online campaign of Barack Obama, there was much talk in Europe of how to make use of the internet and deploying some of the same digital tactics. As we move into the final months of ahead of the June European elections, there is little sign that any of the political families on this side of the pond have done so, but the Liberals' 2009 election website comes closest - and is certainly the slickest of what has been seen so far.

With a clean, up-to-date Apple-meets-Obama-like design, the backbone of the site are the policy videos, showing that the Liberals have learnt the key lesson of the YouTube revolution - that the internet is now as much, if not more, of an audiovisual medium as a prose-based one.

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Much of the information on the site is in video form, and most films are relatively short and to the point – although possibly there was rather less need for the Hollywood-type speaker voice and rock music at the beginning of some of them.

One video clip, with Annemie Neyts Uyttebroek, president of the European Liberals, the visitor can read that "A liberal democracy lives off actors – not spectators!" - a couple of lines that invite action and participation. Thus, there are high hopes when it comes to the possibilities of being able to take part in ELDR's new campaign site, voteliberal2009.

The participatory aspect of the web is regularly paid lip service too but rarely meaning more than an email address that visitors can send their missives to, but the Liberals' encouragement to voters to 'Get involved' takes pride of place on the homepage and is backed up with genuinely interactive options, including joining their Facebook group and participating in their blog.

Nevertheless, the blog at least is updated fairly frequently. Unfortunately, the contributions are long and reader comments are conspicuous by their absence. The ball is in the voters' court now.

The site offers an anonymous opinion form and a "Tell us your Liberal story" option, in which one would hope to find other people's person stories about why they became a liberal. So far though what could be a good idea remains just that, with no one as yet posting their tale of liberal enlightenment.

However, their Facebook page is very active, with 903 members and 50 contributions. Perhaps European liberals have tired of blogs - very 2004, you know - and much prefer Facebook as a medium of information and social exchange.

Navigation works well too, with the different icons that work as links to steer you on to different more or less interactive sites both on and outside of the Liberals' own page.

The site also includes a map function via which the visitor can find out the names of candidates from their home countries as well as what they look like - a simple, satisfactory and tidy solution for easy linking to the homepages of the different candidates.

The site also has a 'Liberal Crossword', which is fun and adds a light-hearted but brainy touch to what can often be a quite dry subject. But it's probably most fun for EU and specifically liberal EU geeks, and one wonders how many voters know which dossier commissioner Ollie Rehn is responsible for or what the name of the Liberals' gender equality network.

For visitors with limited digital capabilities, the crossword can also be printed and solved manually. Crossword solvers are promised of a "Liberal gift". One hopes they are not trying to buy votes with Liberal goodies.

Dummies guide to election

The Liberals are certainly not po-faced in their outlook on campaigning. They even have a film entitled "What has Europe ever done for us?" in which animated representatives from different countries ask what the European Union does in different languages - an amusing way of bringing up different issues that may appeal to a group other than the one that is otherwise addressed by the page. Such a pity, however, that this film is hidden up in a corner.

The information on the page feels as if it is very forthcoming and digestible. This may be due to the fact that the simple icons also lead the visitor into heavier subjects such as "our environment" and "our role in the world".

The libs also have posted a "Dummies guide to election" that describes what the party and election is about in simple terms.

For those that do not class themselves as dummies, the party's manifesto is available in pdf format and even this is relatively straightforward. There are also flyers, logos and other tools under the "campaign toolkit" heading for anyone wanting to get involved in campaigning.

ELDR's campaign site is one of the best so far. It is refreshingly free of long texts and complicated links to what the visitors are expected to be interested in.

However, once again, there is a lack of real transparency. The only way to come into actual contact with the party is via the current tiresome path. I am starting to believe that dialogue is something one only aims for in theory.

Score board

(Highest score possible 25)

Design: 4

Navigation: 4

Content: 3

Cool Factor: 3

Interactivity: 3

Caroline Jungsand is a project manager and digital strategist at the Prime Group in Stockholm, a public affairs agency servicing the Nordic Region. In 2008, she was voted Rookie of the Year in the Swedish PR-industry.

This is the fourth in a series of EUobserver reviews of the campaign websites from the various parties ahead of the June European Parliament elections.

EPP's TV website scores high on content

When the largest political party in the European Parliament launches a new site called Dialogue TV, you get your hopes up. A welcome video with the introduction "You can help shape Europe" feels progressive, interesting and brave, writes Caroline Jungsand in her first review of campaign websites in the European Parliament election campaign.

EU socialists' website worth getting to know

If you take your time with the PES website, it is shareable and interactive. But the good stuff is hidden by clutter, writes Caroline Jungsand in her second EUobserver review of EU election campaign websites.

European Greens campaign website innovates with maps, wikis

The absolute best feature on the Greens' election website is a Google event map. Zooming in on the map allows the user to find out which Green events will take place at a particular location, writes Caroline Jungsand in her third review of new party websites launched in relation to the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Libertas puts internet opportunities to use

A clever website which utilizes the possibilities of the World Wide Web, writes Caroline Jungsand in her review of the new Libertas party's website ahead of European Parliament June elections.


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