Wed, Apr 06, 2011 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Politicians harness Facebook pages to boost democracy and serve constituents

By Chiu Yen-ling and Yan Juo-chin  /  Staff Reporters

Many lawmakers across party lines have taken a leap into the world of Facebook in the hopes their presence on the popular social networking site will increase their chances of being elected in the next legislative elections.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wong Chung-chun (翁重鈞), hailing from a constituency in Chiayi County known for its agricultural industry, has recently launched an activity on his Facebook page asking his fans to click on the “like” button for a chance to win an iPad2.

Acknowledging the Internet gimmick is likely to have little effect on local voters, Wong said he nonetheless had decided to take the suggestion from his youth corps to increase his online visibility.

By posting news on topics relating to Chiayi, he also provided a way for youngsters to gain information on what’s happening in their hometown, Wong added.

KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), from a constituency in Greater Kaohsiung, is among the few lawmakers to manage their Facebook pages on their own.

“Most of the time I respond to Facebook comments from my cellphone during my commute between northern and southern Taiwan,” she said.

KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) is another lawmaker who handles his own Facebook page.

Aside from updating his status and posting comments on current events, Tsai also uses Foursquare function, sharing his whereabouts with his Facebook friends.

KMT Legislator Ma Wen-jun (馬文君), on the other hand, said her aides are usually the ones who mange her Facebook page.

Acclaiming the use of the social networking site, Ma said it not only allows politicians to respond to the public’s needs more directly, it also helps bridge the distance between them and the general public.

Meanwhile, pan-green politicians, generally perceived as more tech-savvy than their pan-blue counterparts, seem to have taken the function of the social networking site to a whole different level.

Aside from the usual information posts and comments on their Facebook walls, some have used their Facebook pages as resource pools.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lai Kun-cheng (賴坤成), for one, recently hired three aides through Facebook, saying the three were originally his Facebook friends.

“I thought I’d give them a try [to work as my aides] after having a good interaction with them on my Facebook page,” Lai said.

Lai added that whenever he needs some help with information, as soon as he posts an inquiry on his “wall,” responses come pouring in.

“Sometimes I will post a preview on topics that I am going to address in the legislature and they will respond with questions, many of which are indeed quite constructive,” Lai said, jokingly adding that his Facebook friends are all his “volunteers.”

DPP lawmakers such as Pan Men-an (潘孟安) and Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who are long-time users of Facebook and other social networking sites, meanwhile, have turned the Web sites into their virtual offices, accepting appeals from netizens beyond their own constituencies.

DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), for one, said she doesn’t rely on the Internet to engage in election campaigns because most of the voters from her constituency are farmers.

However, the Internet allows her to better connect with young people, she said.

“The swift relay of information is good for democracy and constitutes a sort of ‘people power,’” said Yeh, who only recently became active on Facebook.

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