Sunday, March 16, 2008

Polish E-voting is for beer-swigging, porn-loving youths

Poland should not opt for e-voting, because the Internet is a preserve of beer-swigging youths with a penchant for pornography, the country's defeated conservative prime minister said on Wednesday.

"I am not enthusiastic about the idea of a youngster sitting at his computer, watching videos and porn, slugging on a beer bottle and voting whenever he feels like it," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in an interview published, ironically, on the Web site of his Law and Justice party.

Poland has regularly faced low election turnout rates since the advent of democracy when the communist bloc collapsed in 1989.

The national ombudsman has suggested that Warsaw should follow the lead of regional neighbours such as Estonia and use voting on line to encourage more people to take part.

But Kaczynski, who was swept from office by the liberal Civic Platform in a snap election last October and is now leader of the opposition, suggested that Internet balloting could be a ruse to fiddle future results.

Internet-users are "the easiest group to manipulate, and to suggest who they should vote for," he said.

Instead of plunging headlong towards new-fangled ideas, Kaczynski added, today's politicians should take a tip from their predecessors and opt for tried-and-tested methods such as marketplace soapbox speeches.

Young and urban voters, considered typical Internet users in many countries, swung solidly behind the Civic Platform in last year's election, when the Web was a major campaign tool for the liberals.

Analysts said a weak Internet presence contributed to Law and Justice's defeat after two years in office, with the party more popular among older voters than younger ones.

Law and Justice has since been looking to spruce up its image, and, despite his comments, Kaczynski has not been entirely Internet-shy.

In December, he launched a videoblog, saying it was "a good way to meet people" and that he planned to use it around three times a month to express his views.

Kaczynski, 58, is the identical twin of Poland's incumbent President Lech Kaczynski, and is known for his often truculent style and occasionally unusual comments.

He raised eyebrows last year when he said he did not have a bank account, explaining that he feared that anyone trying to manufacture a scandal might transfer funds into it and then try to discredit him.

Instead, he said, he chose to pay his salary over to his mother.