Interactive election soap helps understand political platforms

As mentioned in an earlier post about the Germany will have general elections at the end of September. As a result some interesting web applications are appearing on the web, geared at trying to help voters with their decision.

Germany’s most respected political magazine, “Der Spiegel”, is trying to make abstract political platforms tangible through a “web soap-opera” called “Zeit der Entscheidung” (Decision Time). Each webisodes lasts for 15 minutes before the viewer is asked for his party preference. Then, the video continues according to what the parties are promising in their political platforms. Unfortunately the videos are only in German.

Gay marriage, weed and workers rights

"Decision Time" election soap opera

“Decision Time” election soap opera

In the first episode a student catches his teacher smoking weed. If you vote for the conservatives then she will lose her job and receive a commuted sentence. If you vote for the Greens, the you will see her sharing a joint with a policeman. In a similar fashion the video shows the different attitudes of the political parties to gay marriage and lay-off protection. You can “vote again” to see how the story would play out if another party was in power.

The webisodes are set in a small restaurant and very well produced. The fact that Der Spiegel is behind it helps because it means the videos have probably been produced fairly and not with a particular angle in mind.

What I find interesting is, that they take the opposite approach of the “Elect-O-Meter” which I wrote about last week: The videos are not letting people chose issues and then tell them which party supports those decisions, but assumes that people know which party they support (even though you can “vote again”).

The good and the bad

I like the idea because it makes political platforms tangible; it gives the differences between the political parties a voice and a face. It helps you to understand what the complicated party programs can concretely mean for people.

What I don’t like about it is that the format has to simply things a lot in order to work. I also don’t like that there is no way to account for the political realties of coalitions. No party in Germany will have the absolute majority which means that particularly the more extreme positions of the small parties will never become law.

Overall, I like it. I think it is an excellent idea and I suppose it is particularly attractive for people who don’t like too much detail. However, I think it would work better in countries which have two party systems like the US or the UK .

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