The keys to the Chilean “virtual” candidate who got votes only with social networks

This Sunday the presidential elections were held in Chile. In these it was decided that the candidates José Antonio Kast and Gabriel Boric will go to the second round, which has a date for December 19 and will define who will be the president for the period 2022-2026.

In this instance, in which more than seven million voters turned out to vote, Kast, of the Republican Party, obtained 27.9 percent of the votes. votes, while Boric, from the Social Convergence Party, got a 25.8.

However, despite being left out of the electoral process, what drew attention was who obtained third place: Franco Parisi. The Party for the People candidate won with 12.8 percent of the vote.

Parisi, who is a commercial engineer and resides in Alabama, United States, maintains a complaint for alimony debt against him. Because of this, a family court in Santiago, Chile, issued an “arraigo order” against the candidate, which would prevent him from leaving the country if he returns. In addition, he has a pending statement for a criminal investigation against him as a result of a real estate business.

So, Parisi has not set foot on Chilean soil since 2020 despite having promised that he would do so repeatedly, so he carried out his campaign entirely from abroad. Likewise, he did not participate in the presidential debates (to which the other six candidates attended) and neither did he go to vote on election day, since his polling place is in Santiago.

But what continues to surprise a large part of the population is how a candidate with that record managed to obtain so many votes, and its keys have to do with the intensive use of social networks and digital platforms.

Parisi and his digital campaign

Parisi’s success was based on a strong digital campaign with content on the internet. Although in the weeks before the elections the number of followers on his account increased considerably Instagram (approximately 50 thousand people), their campaign was carried out mainly through Facebook and YouTube.

On these platforms, Parisi was dedicated to analyzing the contingency and publicizing his proposals by making repeated live broadcasts, in which he generally appeared with a wallpaper of the Palacio de La Moneda (the seat of the presidency in Chile) or with a flag. from the country.

Likewise, every Tuesday a program called Bad Boys: those who make the elite uncomfortable in the company of three of his collaborators, in addition to The Candidate Tour, which he carried out together with candidates for parliamentarians and regional councilors of his party.

On the other hand, despite the fact that he did not participate in the official debates generated by the National Television Association (Anatel) —since this requires that the candidates be physically in the place, under equal conditions— he took advantage of the latter to carry out a transmission in parallel, in which he commented on the sayings of the candidates who did participate.

This transmission was made in “PDG Live”, A Facebook page complementary to the official profile of the Party for People dedicated exclusively to the live broadcasts of the candidate, as well as in the YouTube channel of the announcement.

At that time, the followers of Parisi made a campaign of the encounter with the hashtag #ParisiEnElDebateAnatel on social networks, especially Twitter. The label was a symbol of “protest” for the absence of the candidate in the official debate.

This is how Parisi managed to transform Likes into votes, attracting users who shared their content and generating community in virtual spaces (something that Mark Zuckerberg would love to see happen with his new Meta project).

What is the profile of the Parisi voter?

Academics say that the key niche of their voters is in social networks, but not just anyone, but precisely on Facebook.

“In all the groups in which I am involved (on Facebook) … from flea fair, car repair, in any group, Parisi seemed to be the consensus candidate,” commented the social anthropologist and researcher at the Institute for the Study of the Society (IES), Pablo Ortúzar, to EmolTV.

“Chilean politics is very captured by Twitter and ignores the world of Facebook, and we see that a Facebook campaign can get 15 percent, while Twitter campaigns nothing. Twitter is a totally elitist and self-absorbed world with very high moral discourses (…) It seems that they will have to pay more attention to Facebook ”, added the anthropologist.

It is worth mentioning that Parisi became known in 2011 when he hosted the television show The Parisi: the power of the people, along with his brother, Antonino. He then ran for president in 2013, when he came in fourth place and garnered 10 percent of the vote.

“Parisi managed to maintain the voter base that he generated in 2013, where he also obtained an important vote, directing his voters through social networks as if they were a tribe and he its leader,” said the director of the data research company Criteria, Cristian Valdivieso, to Third.

However, social media is a double-edged sword. These work with algorithms that make users follow others with common interests, and thus this is promoting their personal perception and that of the people they follow, without giving room to a more general vision of the panorama.

Also, there is the issue of fake news, as anyone can post content without having a reliable source. So from that point of view, social media can be risky and have a negative impact on voters’ decision making.

For this reason, Roberto Izikson, public affairs manager of the data company Cadem, considers that the fact that Parisi was not in Chile or the complaints against him had no effect among his followers.

“I think that this electorate is not a great consumer of political information, it is not reported through the traditional media, but it is probably reported through social networks and others who also follow Parisi. And, therefore, they are not going to inform themselves about the issue of alimony or they are going to consider that all the accusations against Parisi are false, that it is a campaign orchestrated by traditional politics to harm him, “said Izikson.

From the same point of view, Juan Pablo Luna, an academic at the School of Government and the Institute of Political Sciences of the Catholic University, makes it clear that Parisi’s campaign promises – such as the monetary transfers to the electorate, for example – are “quite messages. simple and very effective, which have not been able to be contrasted, because the candidate is not in Chile, does not participate in the debates and speaks from his social networks without being contradicted or questioned ”.

Finally, according to a study by Citizen Pulse, the majority of Parisi’s electorate are men (63.7 percent) and the majority are between 18 and 30 years old (33.7 percent). They belong to socioeconomic group D, whose median income is $ 685, and group C3, who earn about $ 1,100. In addition, 80.6 percent of its voters do not have a defined political position.

Experts say Parisi’s voters “reflect anti-politics” and “reject traditional politics.” In fact, the message that stood out the most in the candidate’s electoral strip was that “he does not intend to position himself to the right or to the left, but he does try to position himself close to the demands of the people.”

Despite all the jokes that Internet users made to the candidate in relation to virtual spaces – mentioning games like The Sims, Second Life and Habbo– Parisi mobilized 899,403 people to vote for him, which is no small feat.

And since it is such a high figure, now all eyes are on these citizens: will they vote for Boric or Kast in the second round? Be that as it may, Parisi’s adherents will play a decisive role in the presidential elections on Sunday, December 19.

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