In October of 2012, Venezuela experienced one of its most imperative elections in history. Due to the approval of his amendment to the Venezuelan constitution that abolished term limits, the Socialist president Hugo Chávez was able to run for reelection. His rivaling opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, lost by 11 points, but mounted one of the fiercest challenges during the late president’s 14 years in power. The elections showed a historically high turnout, above 80% of the electorate, in a country where voting is not mandatory. Playing a huge role in the voting turnout, and in the ultimate outcome of the elections, was social media.
The article “Social Media Brings Changes to the Venezuelan Election,” (http://tinyurl.com/Social-Media-in-Vzlan-Election) presents evidence pointing to the widespread use of social media by both candidates to garner support for their respective campaigns. According to the piece, “12 million Venezuelans, or 47% of the population, surf the internet, making it one of the most connected countries in Latin America.” While Chávez maintained his historical control over the state media and used it to secure a third term, he also expanded his electronic reach to Twitter, with 3.3 million followers—2.2 million more than Capriles. Because Capriles’ campaign was mainly targeting youth middle class votes, however, he used social media more aggressively, expanding his presence “by using Facebook, YouTube and the photo-sharing website Instagram.” He even went as far as to create a Blackberry smartphone App for his campaign. While the article claims that Capriles managed to get more re-tweets than Chávez, his opponent still won the election.
Personally, I believe that while social media may have played a larger role in increasing voter turnout and widening the support networks of both candidates than it has in the past, it still could not orchestrate the final outcome of the election. After all, Chávez was infamous for his massive following made up of predominantly poor, lower-class citizens; and these citizens were most likely not the ones deciding who they were going to vote for based on their Twitter feed, because, quite frankly, they probably do not even have Twitters, or mobile phones for that matter. Nonetheless, the explosion of social media in the Venezuela’s historic October election definitely indicates that leaders around the world have taken notice of the power that this medium holds.