Spanish politicians are using WhatsApp to talk to voters

Brits aren’t the only ones with election fever – or having elections in the next few months, at least. Later this year, Spain holds its municipal elections, for city-wide leaders. And one candidate, Borja Gutiérrez Iglesias, who’s the mayor of Brunete, near Madrid, is taking his re-election campaign to the people. In the past, that might have meant standing on a street corner with a megaphone or sending a generic email. Now it means adding them on WhatsApp.

As The Guardian reports, last month he gave all 10,000 residents in town his phone number so they can call or text with queries (or complaints). He’s also on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And now he’s joined WhatsApp, so his constituents can contact him for free any time, night or day. Most of the messages arrive between 1am and 6am, and he aims to respond within minutes.

Gutiérrez Iglesias told the paper that he was worried initially that he’d be bombarded by prank calls, but so far he hasn’t had any. He has however received some critical messages relating to an ongoing investigation into whether he tried to bribe another councillor into joining his party… But mostly people have been messaging to alert him to broken pavements and other minor town issues.

And he’s not the only candidate asking voters to keep in touch. Rubén Juan Serna from Murcia and Ramón Marcos from Madrid have also given out their numbers and people in Boadilla del Monte can fill out an online form to WhatsApp with their mayor.

The app’s on approximately 99% of phones in the Spain, so it’s the ideal way to try to reach voters. Still, national politicians would no doubt get a prank call or two, especially in this country. I can’t see Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband giving out their numbers anytime soon –or the majority of messages being polite if they did…

Diane Shipley