Polling booth selfies sweep the Netherlands

Thursday March 20 2014

Alexander Pechtold, who heads the centrist D66 party in a voting booth selfie photo. Dutch citizens and politicians united on Wednesday in posting voting booth selfie photos, an increasingly popular phenomenon that could threaten the principle of the secret ballot but also encourages people to vote. PHOTO/AFP

Alexander Pechtold, who heads the centrist D66 party in a voting booth selfie photo. Dutch citizens and politicians united on Wednesday in posting voting booth selfie photos, an increasingly popular phenomenon that could threaten the principle of the secret ballot but also encourages people to vote. PHOTO/AFP 

THE HAGUE,

Dutch citizens and politicians united on Wednesday in posting voting booth selfie photos, an increasingly popular phenomenon that could threaten the principle of the secret ballot but also encourages people to vote.

Alexander Pechtold, who heads the centrist D66 party, was among the many Dutch voting in Wednesday's local elections who tweeted a #stemfie, a combination of "stemmen", the Dutch word for voting, and selfie.

The photos, often of voters posing with the red pencil used to make their democratic choice or the candidate list, spread over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with the #stemfie hashtag trending.

Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk tweeted: "I'm not calling on people to take a #stemfie, but it is allowed."

FORBIDDEN PAST-TIME

"You cannot affect the confidentiality of the voting process by taking pictures of other people, but if you want to take a photo of yourself, you can," Plasterk told Dutch television channel RTL.

The phenomenon of the polling booth selfie is sweeping the world, forcing countries to take a position.

Some US states forbid polling booth selfies, some allow it, while it is expressly forbidden in South Africa and the Philippines.

"We had quite a few questions from municipalities in the run-up to the elections about whether selfies were allowed in the voting booth, because selfies are in fashion," interior ministry spokesman Tijs Manten told AFP.

"We looked at the electoral law and there was nothing saying we should forbid it: as long as people are just taking a photo of themselves and no one else, as long as people's right to cast a vote in secret is respected and voting procedures are not disturbed, there's no problem," Manten said.

The interior ministry in January sent a memo to municipalities informing them that 'stemfies' were officially authorised.

"We thought it could even be a good way of getting people to go out and vote," said Manten.