‘Little orange’ joke backfires for ruling PP

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.

'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

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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Albert Rivera resigns as Ciudadanos leader after Spain election drubbing and bows out of politics altogether

Just 18 months ago, Albert Rivera was being compared to France's Emmanuel Macron and Canada's Justin Trudeau, was feted as kingmaker in parliament and tipped to be a future prime minister.

Albert Rivera resigns as Ciudadanos leader after Spain election drubbing and bows out of politics altogether
His bared all for his first campaign poster in 2006 and resigned on Monday. Photo: Ciudadanos/ AFP

But on Monday, the leader of Spain's Ciudadanos, Albert  stepped down after the business-friendly party suffered a drubbing in a repeat general election. 

The party, which has been rocked by internal divisions over strategy, won just 10 seats in the 350-seat parliament in Sunday's polls which were marked by a surge in support for far-right party Vox, down from 57 seats in the previous ballot in April.   

“In coherence with who I am, I don't think it's surprising that I resign today. It's the responsible thing to do,” he said adding he was also stepping down as a member of parliament and abandoning politics.

“The time has come to serve other people, to serve my parents, to serve my daughter who I have spent less time with than I should have,” he added after meeting with his party's executive committee.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists won the most seats in Sunday's election but once again fell short of an absolute majority in parliament, prolonging months of deadlock.

Several top Ciudadanos figures resigned in the lead up to the election in protest over deals the party struck with upstart Vox to allow it to govern in several regions and cities along with the main opposition Popular Party.

Rivera, 39, had led Ciudadanos since he founded it in 2006 as a regional party in Catalonia which focused on fighting separatism and defending Spanish unity. 

He burst onto the Catalan political scene in a breath of fresh air, vowing to fight corruption and posing naked on campaign posters to “lay politics bare”. 

The party soared in the polls when it went national in 2014 on a market-friendly, anti-corruption platform which sought to wipe out the traditional left-right divide and it entered parliament the following year.

Rivera, a former water polo player who worked at a bank before entering politics, recently moved the party to the right in an attempt to make Ciudadanos the country's main conservative party, and attacked Sanchez after having failed to form a coalition with him in 2016.

Just 18 months ago, he was being compared to France's Emmanuel Macron and Canada's Justin Trudeau and was feted as kingmaker in parliament and quite possibly as a  future prime minister.