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Spanish MPs turn to WhatsApp to win votes

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Spanish MPs turn to WhatsApp to win votes
Former-actor-turned politician Toni Canto is one of the politicians who's stepped up to the time-consuming challenge. Photo: UPyD
12:20 CET+01:00
Spanish politicians are seeking to capitalize on the fact that Spaniards are Europe's biggest WhatsApp users by offering up their mobile numbers to encourage citizens to contact them via text message.

It’s a policy which has worked wonders for newcomers Podemos and Ciudadanos, whose tech-savvy and unconventional approach to political PR has brought them closer to voters.

By using social networking, crowdfunding platforms and free mobile messaging service WhatsApp, they’ve also disassociated themselves from the corruption-tainted political status quo.

But the old dogs are now following suit, mainly through necessity, as 98 percent of smartphone users in Spain have WhatsApp, the highest percentage in the continent.

Borja Gutiérrez Iglesias, Popular Party mayor in the Madrid municipality of Brunete, is one of the latest politicians to hook onto the trend.

Although he already has accounts with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on which citizens can reach him, he’s now launched the “Call me or write to me on my phone!” campaign, which means he has to devote much of his time to replying to WhatsApp text messages from strangers.

Former-actor-turned politician Toni Canto is another politician who’s stepped up to the time-consuming challenge in order to gain more popularity.

The divisive UPyD MP for Valencia, renowned for his poor choice of words and political gaffes, has already sent out a tweet saying “So many people are sending me WhatApps that I can’t answer them all yet. Patience!”.

As was to be expected, many of the messages Canto, Gutierrez and other politicians are receiving via Whatssapp are fairly critical and invasive, proving just how determined their parties are to bridge the gap between Spain’s ruling classes and  the disaffected citizens.

Whatsapp has been around in Spain for only four years but in that time it has developed into a key communication tool for a large part of the population.

According to industry watchdog CNMC, 51.5 percent of Spanish mobile phone users send messages every day via so-called “over the top” apps, mainly Whatsapp.

Such is the ‘addiction’ of some Spaniards to the free messaging service that in March of last year one woman was medically diagnosed with the first case of whatsappitis.

Whatsapp was first used for political purposes in Spain by the anti-austerity Indignados (Outraged) movement in 2012 with a viral message calling for Spanish politicians’ privileges to be revoked. 

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