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Title: Social media and democratization in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2003
Author: Mohammad, Munir Hasan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 7414
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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A considerable amount of literature examines the impact of the Internet and social media on the practice of democracy in liberal democratic contexts and on the democratization process in nondemocratic contexts. However, little is known about the rise and implications of using the Internet and social media platforms for democratization process in a hybrid political system, like that of Iraqi Kurdistan, which combines elements of both democracy and authoritarianism. This study asks: how does the rise of the Internet and social media platforms influence democracy and democratization in Iraqi Kurdistan? To this end, the study assesses both the relationship between the use of social media platforms by citizens, politicians, electoral candidates, and political parties, as well as political participation and political communication, which are selected as important elements of democratization. It specifically examines the use of social media through three case studies: the Slemani protest movement in 2011; political discussion between citizens and party leaders of two political parties, the Patriotic union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU); and the 2013 parliamentary elections. The study is based on original qualitative interviews with activists, politicians, and party leaders, and an analysis of relevant social media content in the Kurdish language, especially on the social media platform, Facebook. The thesis finds that social media platforms facilitate political participation and political communication in terms of reducing the constraints for organizing and coordinating collective action. They also facilitate political discussion between party leaders and citizens, and provide more access to relevant information for citizens. Furthermore, they expand the scope of freedom of speech by providing opportunities to discuss political issues and other issues of common interest, and facilitate the dissemination of information by electoral candidates and reduce campaign costs. However, the thesis argues that the increasing ease of political participation and political communication, as a result of social media usage, should not be equated with democratization. This is because those in power also use social media but in ways that are counter-productive to democratization. For example, security forces use social media to monitor and gather information about citizens and social movement activists; Political parties and their leaders also use online and social media platforms to distribute pro-party propaganda and to launch online attacks on political rivals, spreading a culture of hatred, violence and nondemocratic values, rather than promoting the discussion of policy issues and government decisions. Election candidates use online resources primarily to win a seat in parliament and empower their campaign rather than engaging with voters in a way that generates productive, healthy, rational, and deep political conversation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Wezareta Fêrkirina Bilind u Vekulînêt Zanistî, Kurdistān (Iraq)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: JQ Political institutions (Asia, Africa, Australia, Pacific Area, etc.)