As Spain gears up for the 2015 general elections, the Internet has become a key tool for political parties attempting to reach, influence and sway potential voters. From crowdfunding calls for a street demonstration to political debate and interactions with citizens, social networks are playing an increasingly relevant role in Spanish politics.
But even though all of Spain's political parties have some presence online, young citizen and alternative parties in particular are using digital tools to great impact.
Many of these movements were born of the mass demonstrations in 2011 and 2012 that flooded Spain's streets. Instead of disappearing, like some people predicted, they moved to neighborhoods, taking the form of assemblies, working groups, and active platforms in which citizens could discuss what changes they believed were necessary on a local level.
From these initially apolitical movements later came groups aspiring to govern, such as Podemos — akin to the Greek party Syriza, which will now govern Greece — and platform Guanyem (Ganemos) have made major strides on the Spanish political scene.
Polls have projected that Podemos, created just about a year ago, will win in the general elections of 2015. The party surprised many with its victory in the European Parliament elections in 2014, in which it took five seats. It funded that campaign via crowdfunding — earning over 40,000 euros (about 45,000 US dollars) — expressly stating that they did not want to rely on money from the very banks that evict thousands of families from their homes in Spain, like traditional political parties tend to do.
15MPaRato, Party X, and the Network Movement have also taken this route to find financial support.
Podemos has over 920,000 followers on Facebook and close to 500,000 on Twitter, far exceeding the two Spanish traditional parties, the People's Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). These alternative parties and platforms heavily rely on social media to address an audience that is anxious for conclusive reforms: the end of political corruption and austerity measures, a renewed emphasis on citizens in public debate and more policies for the common good.
Podemos no nace de la indignación de la gente, nace de la esperanza en un futuro mejor y la ilusión de un presente. Comenzamos el cambio.31E — PODEMOS (@ahorapodemos) enero 29, 2015
Podemos is not born of peoples’ outrage, it is born of the hope for a better future and the excitement for a present. We start the change. 31E
This Saturday, we'll see each other in Madrid. It's time for history to take a new direction. There are alternatives: Yes we can!
These new groups have created viral campaigns with a convincing, direct, and relatable tone. Building on the strong power of Internet mobilization, Podemos launched a viral call to organize a huge march that took place in Madrid on Saturday, January 31, and shared banners, hashtags, and links to follow the event via live-streaming, in addition to organizing bus trips so that people from all over Spain could participate.
Another example of Internet use is the following video by Ada Colau, the leader of Guanyem Barcelona, who expressed her wish for the new year, and took the opportunity to explain the platform's objectives, calling for a democratic revolution:
These strategies are forcing major Spanish parties to redefine their methods of online outreach, debate issues and face their new competitors. The strength of Podemos and the will for change was measured on that Saturday, when thousands took to the streets, although the outcome of their campaign is set to be evaluated for the first time after the municipal elections in May 2015. Podemos and Ganemos Madrid have announced that they will compete under the same trademark to place citizens in the center of the decision-making process. Will they succeed?