Opposition revives on Twitter with primary candidate debate

Opposition revives on Twitter with primary candidate debate

Published on 24 Jul 2023

We recorded the hashtag #HablanLosCandidatos (“The Candidates Speak”) trending in Venezuela with at least 36,000 tweets.

The debate of the opposition candidates to the primaries for the presidential elections was a success, at least on Twitter. Although some, including candidate Henrique Capriles, thought that this event could hurt the opposition by deepening internal differences, the truth is that the numbers show otherwise.

On July 12 at ProBox Observatory we registered the hashtag #HablanLosCandidatos (“The Candidates Speak”) was positioned as a trend in Venezuela with at least 36,000 tweets, being the largest hashtag promoted by the Unitary Opposition so far this year and one of the largest trends in which Venezuelan civil society has participated, marking a peak in the 2023 electoral conversation.

The Unitary Opposition demonstrated with the event that citizens still care about politics and that participation in the presidential elections scheduled for 2024 could surprise.

We tell you what happened

On July 12, eight of the 14 candidates to the opposition primaries participated in a debate planned by 37 student and civil society organizations, held at the Aula Magna of the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) and broadcasted only by Internet, without any participation of Venezuelan TV stations.

This was the first debate to be held in many years and therefore it was seen by many specialists as an achievement for the construction of democracy. Since Chavism consolidated itself in power in 1998, debates were no longer part of the daily electoral routine in the country, so this event was an unprecedented event for the political reality in Venezuela in the 21st century.

Besides the national TV stations, the two major absentees from the event were candidates Roberto Enriquez, from the Copei party, and Henrique Capriles, two-time presidential candidate. While the green party candidate justified his absence due to a scheduled meeting with his economic advisor in the U.S., Capriles pointed out that the debate would have more negative than positive effects for the opposition.

Civil society and the Unitary Opposition united on Twitter

While the hashtag #HablanLosCandidatos was created by the Unitary Opposition as a strategy to promote the candidates’ debate, civil society also promoted it and started using it during the day to talk about what was happening during the debate.

In addition, the numbers also turned out to be favorable for the only online TV station that was broadcasting the debate: the VPItv channel. Through YouTube, VPITv capitalized on a large audience during the 4-hour broadcast of the debate. The transmission and subsequent video accumulated 236,574 views, representing so far this year the highest number of viewers in a live broadcast of this channel.

Chavism’s communicational hegemony still prevails

Despite the success achieved by the Unitary Opposition in positioning the trend #HablanLosCandidatos on Twitter, in Venezuela the volume of tweets on July 12 came mostly from the side of chavismo.

The same day of the debate, the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information (MIPPCI) promoted the hashtag #LaPoesíaNosUne (“Poesy bring us together”) which accumulated approximately 278,000 tweets, i.e. almost 8 times more tweets than the opposition trend but in an inauthentic and coordinated manner. These MIPPCI results on Twitter during the day of the opposition primary candidates’ debate are not isolated.

In the ProBox Annual Report we recorded that 83.3% of 2022 tweets came from MIPPCI-driven hashtags and over 80% of this conversation was manipulated. In other words, the majority of tweets were not generated by real users nor did they have truthful content that spoke to the social and political dynamics experienced in the country during the year.

“A group of coordinated users known as Tuiteros de la Patria push daily the tags defined by the Ministry of Communication and Information to achieve that wave of propaganda and supposed massive support, which is really inorganic,” says ProBox General Director, Estefania Da Silva.

Remember that you can follow us on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok as @ProBoxVE, to find more information on these issues.

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