21 Dec

On Facebook, Brazil is the protagonist in the debate about the elections in Uruguay, which were also mentioned in 3 million tweets in Portuguese and Spanish

There were 217 thousand posts on Twitter in Brazil about the elections in Portuguese; in the whole world, there were 2.8 million references in Spanish

Por Lucas Calil

Updated 5 de February, 2020 at 11:54 am

In the midst of the escalation of the political polarization in America Latina, after the protests in Chile (and now in Colombia), the elections in Argentina, and the institutional turnaround in Bolivia, Brazil showed the biggest repercussion of Luis Lacalle Pou’s victory over Daniel Martínez in Uruguay’s fierce presidential race. Especially on Facebook, where more than 40 thousand links were shared about the race; among those with the highest volume of interactions, more than 80% came from Brazilian sites and portals.

In total, between October 24 and 28, there were 3 million mentions on Twitter about the Uruguayan elections — 2.8 million in Spanish, 217 thousand in Portuguese —; on Facebook, the 300 links with the most engagement had 5.5 million interactions (including reactions, comments and shares). 66% of the tweets in Spanish came from Uruguay (1.8 million mentions), in addition to a significant volume of references coming from Chile (10%, 180 thousand), Argentina (6%, 168 thousand) and Venezuela (3%, 82 thousand).

There were three main peaks of repercussion in Spanish: the first one, on October 27 at night during the first round of the vote, obtained a maximum level of debate of 360 tweets/minute. The second one, between November 13 and 14 during the television debate with Martínez and Lacalle Pou, generated a maximum of 444 tweets/minute. The last one, which was also the most representative, happened on Sunday (24) at night with the announcement of the narrow result between the two adversaries, with a peak of one thousand tweets/minute. The formal announcement of Lacalle Pou’s victory, with Martínez’s recognition, happened only this Thursday (28).

Figure 1: Evolution of the mentions on Twitter about the Uruguayan elections in Portuguese and in Spanish

In Brazil, most of the repercussion was around the impact of Lacalle Pou’s victory, who is a center-right candidate, on the political alignments of the Brazilian government in the region – particularly due to the defeat of the left-wing coalition who had been governing the country for 15 years. Also in this context, several links with strong engagement on Facebook approached the victory of the former left-wing president Pepe Mujica in the Senate elections; the most shared link internationally about the Uruguayan elections in the platform comes from a left-wing Brazilian website which commented on Mujica’s success, reaching 181 thousand interactions.

In addition to the Brazilian news reports about the elections, among the most popular links on Facebook there were posts from portals in Spain, Argentina and Chile, and the Uruguayan link with the most repercussion made another thematic approach: on November 23, it highlighted the fact that supporters of the Partido Nacional (of Lacalle Pou) and of the (of his adversary, Daniel Martínez) sang the country’s national anthem together – reaching 70.8 thousand interactions on the social network.

On Twitter, the pro-Lacalle Pou hashtag #sevan, referring to the left wing leaving the government, appears in 5% of the mentions in Spanish (140 thousand repetitions), and the capital, Montevideo, had a very high percentage in the tweets, representing 44% of the debate in Spanish (1.2 million mentions). There were also tens of thousands of publications about the Uruguayan elections in Buenos Aires, Santiago and Caracas,

Figure 2: international heat map about the Uruguayan elections on Twitter

Mujica’s figure also remains on Twitter as a strong influencer of discussions. The post with the largest volume of retweets about the Uruguayan electoral context in the period, with more than 24 thousand shares, has little to do with the race: it came from the official account of the former Bolivian president Evo Morales, thanking Mujica for his support regarding Morales’ resignation as president. Other accounts of Uruguayan left-wing politicians and influencers predominated among the most influential in the discussions on the network, but Lacalle Pou’s profile had far higher engagement levels than Martínez’ in the discussion.

In Brazil, the right wing is more influential – even Flamengo had an impact on the debate

However, particularly in Brazil, right-wing profiles aligned with the federal government had a higher influence on the debate about Uruguay, among which are the president Jair Bolsonaro, the federal deputy Carla Zambelli, and the influencer Leandro Ruschel. The Brazilian president’s name was mentioned in 16% of the posts regarding the Uruguayan elections in Portuguese, and the former president Lula was mentioned in 5%.

Interestingly, there was also a significant association on Twitter between the Uruguayan context and Brazilian football, due to the recent success of the football team Flamengo: one of the main players of the club is the Uruguayan Giorgian de Arrascaeta, and right-wing profiles, when celebrating Lacalle Pou’s result, made references to the idolatry of Arrascaeta (who appeared in 6% of the posts in Brazil about Uruguayan politics).

* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Chequeado, Linterna Verde and Ojo Público. It’s goal is to monitor and analyze the digital conversations regarding the electoral context.