ID used technology to nab youth vote

The newly formed Independent Democrats, which is fighting its first elections, said on Thursday it went after South Africa’s youth vote by using innovations in technology to campaign to its voters, such as use of SMSes and the web.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian Online, ID leader Patricia de Lille claimed the party has a database of more than 90 000 cellphone numbers of its constituents. De Lille said the ID can send an SMS message to any of these voters at any time.

The concept is called the Digital Democracy Forum.
It allows people to SMS De Lille their questions or comments. The SMSes are then scrolled across the ID website on a daily basis, and De Lille replies directly to some of the messages.

“I called all the youth in the party together and asked how I can use technology to make the party more accessible and more visible. And they went away for three weeks. They then came back with the SMS idea where people could SMS me ... we were the first party with an SMS number of five digits,” said De Lille.

De Lille said the party is hoping for 5% of the vote—an ambitious target considering this is the ID’s first election. With results from almost half the polling stations tallied, De Lille was still optimistic of getting close to the 5% mark. By mid-afternoon the ID was in fourth spot in front of the New National Party and behind the Inkatha Freedom Party.

De Lille’s party has already notched up enough votes already to be assured of three seats in the National Assembly. Early on Thursday afternoon, indications were that the ID had 2,09% or 150 079 votes—each seat in the Assembly requires about 50 000 votes.

“The results so far have confirmed the need for something new, for something fresh in South African politics. I am pleasantly surprised at the optimism and confidence that South Africans have expressed in the new initiative,” said a satisfied-looking De Lille.

“Most of it has been hard work, but also a conscious decision to conduct a positive campaign rather than a negative campaign of pulling down other parties. We didn’t go for the negative stuff, and it appears to have paid off.”

Responding to criticisms that she is a “one-woman party”, she said that the country is at a stage of “personality-driven politics”.

“I may be a superwoman but I am not that powerful to do that on my own. I am known more than some of the ministers in Cabinet. We started small, but we have since grown to many more members,” she said.

De Lille left the Pan African Congress of Azania last year—stripping that party of one of its three seats. She has garnered strong support in the Northern Cape, Gauteng and the Western Cape, polling particularly strongly in the Western Cape, her home province.

De Lille has pushed aside South Africa’s former ruling party, the NNP—at least so far, with the NNP having just 146 904 votes or 2,05% early on Thursday afternoon. This translated in vote terms to three seats as well, but was likely to go up to eight when the final tallies were done.

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