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'Little orange' joke backfires for ruling PP

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'Little orange' joke backfires for ruling PP
Albert Rivera, leader of Spanish political party Ciudadanos, poses with Little Orange, after being given the nickname by a Popular Party spokesman. Photo: Albert Rivera/Twitter
12:03 CET+01:00
A joke by the spokesman for Spain's ruling Popular Party backfired this week, as people took to social media in support of the leader of one of Spain's new and fast growing parties, showing that Spain's political establishment has a long way to go when it comes to social media.

Popular Party parliament spokesman, Rafael Hernando, christened the leader of political party, Ciudadanos, 'Naranjito' (little orange) this week, in reference to the party colours of Ciudadanos (Citizens).

Naranjito, a little smiling orange, was the mascot of the 1982 World Cup held in Spain, but could now be making a comeback thanks to the 2015 elections.

What was meant as a throwaway joke exploded on social media and not in the way Hernando expected. Thousands tweeted their support of Rivera, with the hashtag #YoSoyNaranjito leaping to second most popular trending topic worldwide.

Rivera himself even tweeted a photograph of himself holding a picture of Naranjito,

"I am Naranjito because I like proposals more than complaints, because I am moved by hope and not by fear. I am Ciudadano."

Rivera told reporters that Hernando calling him 'Little Orange' had been a great idea; now Ciudadanos could use this famous symbol of Spain in all of their campaigning.

Rivera’s witty response points to the way Ciudadanos, as well as Podemos, another of Spain’s new political parties, are much more adept at using social media than Spain’s ruling Popular Party.

"Attacks from the old parties only make us stronger and prouder to be who we are," said a tweet from Ciudadanos, in response to Hernando’s comments.

"Neither red, nor blue: orange" said a Tweet by political party, Ciudadanos.

Both Ciudadanos and Podemos have harnessed the power of social media in their campaigning, leaving the PP trailing when it comes to social media strategy.

Social media has not always worked in the ruling party's favour. In February, two youth leaders in the PP quit after a photo of them making Nazi salutes and holding a fascist flag leaked onto social media. The PP suffered another red-faced moment when one of its councillors in the Basque country wore an SS uniform to a carnival. Again, the photo ended up doing the rounds on social media.

Even when the PP try to embrace social media it rarely goes well. A campaign video released on YouTube featuring Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy knocking on doors to thank Spanish people spawned multiple parodies, many of which involved people closing the door in Rajoy’s face.

When it comes to social media, follower numbers point to the success of the newer parties in attracting followers.

The Popular Party has 217,000 Twitter followers, while Podemos, the new left-wing protest party that was formed only a year ago, has 554,000. Albert Rivera’s Ciudadanos party, a ‘small party’ when it comes to Spanish politics, has 127,000, not too far behind the PP.

Ciudadanos (Citizens) is a centre-left political party formed in Catalonia in 2006. The party has nine MPs in the Catalan parliament and is staunchly opposed to Catalan independence prefering to put aside the divisive matter of nationalism to focus on everyday 'real' issues.

The party has recently gained popularity nationally as many Spaniards look for alternatives to what they see is a corrupt traditional two-party system, a feeling which has propelled Podemos, an even newer party, towards the top of voter intention polls.

The head of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, famously got his kit off when he unveiled the party in 2006 with the tagline "your party has been born". 

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