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28 Sep, 2007 02:07

Politicians log on to reach the cyber generation

Ask any politician who they’d most like to get their message across to, and the chances are they’ll say: the younger generation. That’s why so many of them are now turning to the internet, the place so many young people regard as home.

The internet is probably the most powerful force in the media today: no boundaries, limited laws, an endless sea of information.

The internet has played a major role in election campaigns in the West for nearly a decade. 

With the You Tube phenomenon, the internet could be a decisive factor in the U.S. Presidential election next year. The site has already organised debates broadcasted by CNN in late July – and users could submit their questions in the form they liked.

In fact a Western politician is no-one without his or her official site.

It’s different in Russia. Here television remains the main source of information for most of the population.

But that’s changing.  Politicians here see the potential of the web for getting their message across, particularly to the younger generation.  And with elections just around the corner, the internet is becoming a powerful instrument in the politician’s tool bag.

The country’s most popular politician, Vladimir Putin, has an interactive site. And a second one – for children.

Some people, like the Editor-in-Chief of Kommersant newspaper website Pavel Chernikov say politicians who aren't on the net might be hung out to dry: “Politicians and businessmen understand how important the internet is becoming in Russia. It can be used for personal PR to official policies and so on,” Mr Chernikov believes.

Politicians are actively taking part in live debates on O2 TV – a young hip channel broadcast through the internet – hoping to attract budding audiences to politics through their most popular medium.

The channel’s political editor Vasily Brosko says their approach helps them attract the audience: “The quality of Russian television doesn’t satisfy younger people in Russia that’s why they use the internet. We show different music different politics and different news-and it all speaks to them in their own language.”

Unfortunately it’s only like 10 to 12% of the population of this country really are active. But putting that aside the LifeJournal is a kind of reservation for a lot of really intellectually grown up and active young population.

Aleksandr Lebedev
State Duma deputy
Active blogger

No there are also the blogs – a fast way for voters to read what they need to know straight from the source.

Russian State Duma deputy Aleksandr Lebedev got into trouble with his blog on LiveJournal after writing about his colleague deputy Vladimir Medinsky. A law suit was filed against him by Mr Medinsky after some criticisms from LiveJournal were published on the website of Kommersant newspaper.

The tiff however lead to the exploration of a new frontier in internet politics. The two deputies duelled it out in a live chat on Kommersant’s website.

So while it didn’t start here and it might be some time before the internet determines the outcome of elections in Russia the connection is becoming something Russian politicians might not be able to live without.