This weekend, residents of New South Wales will front up to their local primary school or church, run the gauntlet of bright-shirted people thrusting how-to-vote brochures at fellow voters, and use a blunt pencil to perform their civic duty.
As with any other election, the campaign trail has been fraught with health and transport-related scandals, ruthless attempts at discrediting opponents, and those awful TV ads with the ominous music that end with authorisedbySKainefortheALPSydney.
One candidate of particular interest this year is former ACS (Australian Computer Society) president Edward Mandla, who is hoping to unseat Independent MP and Lord Mayor Clover Moore in the Sydney electorate. As you would expect from the regional director of IT Pro, Mandla has employed the Web as a promotional platform for his campaign. His Web site, mandlaforsydney.com.au, tracks media coverage, offers information on policies and provides the obligatory Clover Moore smackdown in the "Rollover Clover" section.
Mandla is also making use of YouTube to get his message across. On the front page of his site are two embedded videos -- one putting the boot into Clover (because she is "tired, angry and won't talk"), and a promo on why Mandla should be your man, hosted by a blonde woman with the voice of Tracy Grimshaw.
A text link at the top of Mandla's page ("Click here to see Edward on YouTube") takes the visitor to a search result page on YouTube. The search query is "edward mandla", which is a bit risky -- Clover supporters could easily upload an anti-Mandla video and tag it with those keywords, and it would appear on the same page.
Clicking through to the video titled "Edward Mandla Liberal Candidate for Sydney Hits the Streets", we see that it was uploaded by a user named chrisabood, who joined the site on 18 February, has a Mandla photo as his avatar and lists his age as 45. Beneath the video are some glowing comments, including this endorsement from sydneygirl3, who presumably lives in Mandla's electorate:
This guy is really going to make things happen!! Move over Clover ... Edward is such a great guy who is actually dedicated and smart! ... got my vote!
Three other comments from Yvee82, n1ck1973 and kaming2000 express similarly enthusiastic views. The weird thing is, all four of these users became members of YouTube within three days of one another, and all within two weeks of chrisabood signing up. Even weirder: none of them has watched more than two videos on YouTube, with sydneygirl3's user profile stating "Videos watched: 0".
Perhaps these newbie YouTubers have just jumped aboard the bandwagon late in the piece, and the election has spurred them into watching and commenting on one particular video. Or perhaps the alter ego(s) of sydneygirl3, Yvee82, n1ck1973 and kaming2000 are all currently folding leaflets in Mandla's campaign office. Anything's possible in politics.