VRT

De Vragende Partij

VRT asked us to work with them on a participative concept to attract Flemish voters during the run-up to the 2012 Municipal elections. VRT and Prophets developed the ‘The Questioning Party’ (‘De Vragende Partij’) concept in several workshops. We handled the phased launch’s technical side and got it on the right track.

How can we align voters and political parties?

Dirk Reynaers of Deredactie.be and political journalists asked how VRT could give voters a greater say during the run-up to the municipal elections. In all previous municipal elections, political manifestos were often full of generalities whereas the city council elections revolved around extremely concrete questions and problems in the voters’ areas.

In addition, political manifestos were invariably drawn up from the viewpoint of an individual party, so they could seldom be compared with those of other parties. The final concern was the long run-up to the elections. And how to keep these sufficiently engaging in phases. The project would also have to ‘feed’ radio and TV programmes.

The power of municipal elections lies in their local nature.

The power, but also the challenge, of municipal elections lies in the number of local parties and the interpretation of their manifestos.We’re talking about a fragmented electoral landscape with 327 municipalities, each with an average of 5 electoral lists. This also immediately implies that it’s extremely difficult, in fact impossible, to work a ‘Voting test’ application as is normally the case for the federal elections.

So we decided to adopt a different, extremely local, route. And to work in a phased fashion. During the first 2 months, voters could submit their suggestions, per municipality, about what could be improved there. These suggestions could then be supported by everyone who considered these to be strong ideas. Each week from the end of August, the two best-supported suggestions were presented to the local party leaders. They, in turn, could post their opinions about these suggestions. In total, the 10 best supported suggestions were answered in that way.
As the highlight of the project, the parties were asked to choose 3 suggestions from the top 10 and to formulate a real ‘promise’ based on them.

So visitors to The Questioning Party could then support the promises of the political leaders.

‘How can we get voters more involved in municipal elections, knowing that they’re often seen as the ‘little brother’ of the federal elections?’

Democracy supported by robust technologyIn 2012, VRT set up a new party: The Questioning Party

The greatest creative challenge lay in attracting attention in a highly fragmented electoral landscape and motivating people to post suggestions on our web platform. What’s more they could bring their own ideas to the party leaders to get things moving in their areas.

So we decided to setup a political party for the voters themselves: The Questioning Party. We chose Ivan De Vadder to be The Questioning Party’s spokesman. Each member of The Questioning Party can make suggestions to the policy makers and should do their best to gather support for the suggestions.

Building the platform was quite a feat. Research showed that no CMS or existing platform had all the functions we needed or was versatile enough to be adapted. That’s when we decided to build our own platform. We created The Questioning Party using DotNet technology which was rolled out in phases through Microsoft’s Azure cloud hosting platform. This enabled us to absorb user peaks extremely smoothly and flexibly. The Questioning Party was VRT’s first Azure project. And it was very successfully developed and used.

A political party needs to grow

Just like a real political party, The Questioning Party has to grow. Thanks to our excellent spokesman Ivan, things went very quickly. Initially, the strongest flow was through the attention it attracted on radio and TV. But social media rapidly began to play an important role. To get support, lots of people shared their suggestions on Facebook and Twitter. Each week we also touched base with all interested parties by e-mailing a summary of the best supported suggestions.
Before the second phase, where politicians will give their opinions, the site had already had 115,000 unique visitors, making 400,000 visits and 1.5 million page views. More than 28,000 ‘party members’ posted 8,500 suggestions which have gathered 85,000 messages of support. And the second and third phases are still to come…

Interested?

We’d love to tell you more about it. Should we meet for a coffee? Just drop us a line.

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