It is commonly known that monetary remittances, the funds that foreigners working abroad send back to their origin countries, make up an important part of many developing nations’ economies. Less commented on, however, are social remittances, or the influence migrants exert on their home countries’ politics. One of the most important mechanisms for social remittances is the absentee ballot. According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 115 countries or territories now grant voting rights to their citizens living abroad.
Sergio Massa marches down a corridor, casting aside his suit jacket and rolling up his shirtsleeves – as if preparing for a schoolyard tussle – before facing the camera: “If they want to fight, we’re going to fight,” he says. That’s the controversial TV spot Mr. Massa, who is running for a congressional seat in Argentina’s upcoming midterm elections, chose for his campaign. But he is not the only politician to adopt an aggressive tone against the Front for Victory, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s ruling alliance.
Digital democracy is here. We no longer passively watch our leaders on television and register our opinions on Election Day. Modern politics happens when somebody comments on Twitter or links to a campaign through Facebook. In our hyper-networked world, anyone can say anything, and it can be read by millions.
Social media, and Twitter in particular, enables people to follow news events in real time around the world. On 31 July 2013 and into 1 August, #ZimElections became a worldwide trending topic as the voting in Zimbabwe concluded, and Zimbabweans woke up to a state of limbo. The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) was not to release the elections results until next Monday – an eternity in today’s connected world – but with a law prohibiting anyone from making pronouncements about the results, surely everyone would hold their tongues till that date?
South Africa has generally had strong relations with Zimbabwe, but some say a last week's hiccup over criticism of election preparations reveals the diplomatic fine line the southern African nations walk. Last week, Lindiwe Zulu, a top international advisor to South African President Jacob Zuma, voiced concern that Zimbabwe was not well-prepared for the July 31 election, saying Zuma had spoken to Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe by phone about the matter.
Canada is seeking to restore diplomatic relations with Iran — but not the old-fashioned way. Instead of ambassadors and attaches, the Foreign Affairs Department is aiming to connect with Iranians directly, via social media. They're working with the University of Toronto's Munk School to host two days of discussions that will be live-streamed online in the hopes of reaching and inspiring Iranians ahead of June's presidential elections.
Leading candidates assert that they will be responsible stewards, unlike the firebrand Ahmadinejad, who cannot run again because he is limited to two terms. One criticized Ahmadinejad for "controversial but useless" statements. Others even say the country should have a less hostile relationship with the United States.
During previous elections, the diaspora has, for the most part, remained silent. Today, with the Internet, social media, and live coverage of the election and its aftermath, information has become more widely available, allowing the diaspora to not only be more informed and connected, but more involved.