Internal democracy of political parties in the age of political communication 2.0: the case of the 2018 primary elections of the Partido Popular La democracia interna de los partidos en la era de la comunicación política 2.0: el caso de las primarias del partido popular de 2018 doxa.comunicación | nº 35, pp. 39-58 | 59July-December of 2022ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978How to cite this article: Pérez-Gabaldón, M. and Nicasio-Varea, B. (2022). Internal democracy of political parties in the age of political communication 2.0: the case of the 2018 primary elections of the Partido Popular. Doxa Comunicación, 35, pp. 59-81.https://doi.org/10.31921/doxacom.n35a1618Marta Pérez Gabaldón. Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Administration (2008, Extraordinary Award), and a PhD from UCH-CEU (2012, Extraordinary Award). She is a graduate of Law (UNED, 2018). In addition to being an active member of several research projects, she has published articles in indexed journals, book chapters for Q1 publications in SPI, and two monographs, in addition to having coordinated three collective works for Q1 publications. Her research has focused on intergovernmental relations, environmental policy, public transparency, and political communication. Moreover, she has won several awards, such as the Les Corts Valencianes Prize for the best paper presented at Valencian universities in 2010, and the Ángel Herrera Award for the best work in the eld of Social Sciences in 2019. She is currently an assistant professor (accredited by AVAP), who imparts classes in both Law and Political Science, and she is also the Academic Secretary of the Faculty of Law, Business and Political Science at UCH-CEU.  Cardenal Herrera-CEU University, CEU Universities, Spainmarta.perez@uchceu.esORCID: 0000-0001-5734-0207Blanca Nicasio Varea. Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science (2009), and a second BA in Journalism (2010). PhD Cum Laude and Extraordinary Doctorate Award (2017), conferred by the University of Cardenal Herrera-CEU. From 2015 to 2018, she worked as a parliamentary assistant in Les Corts Valencianes (Valencian Regional Courts), as well as in the European Parliament. She currently works as a professor of Political Science at UCH-CEU University. Moreover, she has published several articles in academic journals related to Marketing 2.0 in the Valencian Autonomous Region: in the primary elections of this region, the campaign entitled Campañas 2.0 de la Coalició Compromís y Ciutadans was published as a case study in the journal Ámbitos Revista Internacional de Comunicación; another article, “Comunicación Parlamentaria 2.0: El Debate de la Moción de Censura en Twitter” (Parliamentary Communication 2.0: e debate on the Motion of No Condence in Twitter), appeared in the journal MH Communication. She has also published book chapters and coordinated collective works, an example of which is La Regeneración del Sistema: reexiones en torno a la Calidad Democrática, el Buen Gobierno y la Lucha contra la Corrupción (Regenerating the System: Reections on Democratic Quality, Good Governance, and the Fight against Corruption) (Olelibros, 2015), and Defender la Democracia. Studies on Democratic Quality, Good Governance and the Fight against Corruption (Tirant lo Blanch, 2019). Cardenal Herrera-CEU University, CEU Universities, Spainblanca.nicasio@uchceu.esORCID:0000-0002-6210-242XAbstract: In the summer of 2018, the Popular Party (Spanish: Partido Popular, PP) held its rst national primaries to elect its president. is study aims to analyse, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the Twitter campaign of the two main candidates in the two stages of this process Resumen: En verano de 2018, el Partido Popular celebró sus primeras primarias a nivel nacional para elegir a su presidente. El presente estudio tiene como objeto el análisis, tanto cuantitativo como cualitativo, de la campaña en Twitter de los dos principales candidatos en las dos etapas de dicho Received: 03/02/2022 - Accepted: 23/05/2022 - Early access: 09/06/2022 - Published: 01/07/2022Recibido: 03/02/2022 - Aceptado: 23/05/2022 - En edición: 09/06/2022 - Publicado: 01/07/2022
60 | nº 35, pp. 59-81 | July-December of 2022Internal democracy of political parties in the age of political communication 2.0: the case of the 2018 primary...ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978doxa.comunicación1. Introduction1.1. e importance of primary elections as an instrument of political participationIn recent years, numerous phenomena have taken place in Spain that have called into question the permanence of some of the classic parameters of democracy. Some of them, including deliberation, citizen representation, the separation and independence of public powers, and the accountability to citizens of those in power, are fundamental in guaranteeing the legitimacy of the current political system (Torcal and Christmann, 2020; Coller et al., 2019; González de la Garza, 2018; Rodríguez, 2015; Aznar and Pérez, 2014; Villoria, 2011; Rosanvallon, 2009 Cohen, 2007; O’Donnell, 2004; among others). Likewise, the assessment of political parties by citizens has deteriorated considerably (Torcal, 2008). e retrospective opinion of citizens reveals that parties have turned their backs on society (Maravall, 2013) and left the areas of interaction with citizens desolate (Mair, 2008).is crisis of political parties has been widely addressed in the literature. ere is a widespread theory that states that part of the transformations that parties are undergoing result from the crisis of the democratic system to a large extent (Vargas, 1988). Some authors speak of a “gradual process of deterioration” of democratic quality that has been taking place over the last two decades (Ruiz and Bovero, 2005, p. 57), resulting from the abuse of their dominant position (Garrido, 2017). is is an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy, which has generated an obvious disconnection with the rank and le members of political parties. Moreover, this has not gone unnoticed by citizens (Garrido, 2017), as evidenced by successive opinion polls carried out by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS). As a result, parties have been forced to seek new ways to carry out participation (Di Palma, 1970, p. 30), and to reconsider their structure, model and internal selection process (Conde, 2019).However, a decline in trust in institutions (Torcal, 2006) does not necessarily have to be negative, nor a bad omen. In the long run, it may provide a kind of incentive to improve the system by establishing “new, more demanding criteria for assessing the performance of government” (Inglehart, 1998, p. 392). In other words, “a certain degree of mistrust may be a necessary condition for democratic quality” (Llera, 2014, p. 197), as it creates niches of opportunity for the implementation of measures aimed at enhancing democratic standards (Gómez and Navarro, 2019).of internal democracy: from 23 June to 5 July, and from 6 to 21 July. e results show that social networks are a necessary instrument in candidates’ political communication strategy, as they encourage citizen participation and instant communication, and they allow interaction as well. Nevertheless, the ndings also point out that this social network has not fully capitalized on its potential, as the one-way transmission of content has taken centre stage.Keywords: Twitter; internal democracy; primaries; Partido Popular; political communication.proceso de democracia interna: del 23 de junio al 5 de julio, y del 6 y al 21 de julio. Los resultados demuestran cómo las redes sociales son un instrumento necesario en la estrategia de comunicación política de los candidatos al favorecer la participación ciudadana y la comunicación instantánea, así como también posibilitando la interacción. No obstan-te, también evidencian un desaprovechamiento del potencial que tiene la red social al prevalecer la transmisión unidireccional de contenidos.Palabras clave: Twitter; democracia interna; primarias; Partido Popular; comunica-ción política.
doxa.comunicación | nº 35, pp. 59-81 | July-December of 2022Marta Pérez-Gabaldón and Blanca Nicasio-VareaISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-397861e need for internal democracy in political groupings has been present since the emergence of large-scale, mass parties (Vírgala, 2015). In the Spanish political system, reconsidering the selection of the elite, as well as the conguration of the internal party structure, took place at the end of the 20th century (Pérez, 2012). In 1998, the rst primary elections in Spain were held within the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español [PSOE], in Spanish). is represented a breakthrough for participatory democracy in this country by placing an important decision in the hands of the rank and le members of a political party. It also started a debate in the media about “the legitimacy of the process, as well as the problems it generated, and whether the process should be restricted to party members only or open to all citizens, and most importantly, the erosion that it might produce within the party” (Conde, 2019, p. 194).From that moment on, there were primaries at the national, regional and/or local levels to designate the leaders and/or heads of lists of dierent political formations that competed in successive elections (Rodríguez et al., 2010). It was in 2015 when a turning point occurred for two reasons. On the one hand, after “the implosion of the party system” (Giménez, 2019, p.23), the holding of general elections in that year meant the institutional entry of parties whose essence consisted of renewing democracy and transparency, as well as greater political participation in the decision-making process. Among their slogans, one that stands out refers to the need for internal democracy and the role of rank and le members in determining the candidates who assume positions of leadership in representing the party. On the other hand, traditional parties felt obligated to employ strategies in order to adapt to the new circumstances (Rodríguez et al., 2010), due to the crisis of legitimacy. ey also had to confront disaection in order to meet the new standards of transparency and participation set by the nascent political formations, which viewed internal party democracy as an eective way of increasing democracy in general (Maravall, 2013).Most political groupings with parliamentary representation have introduced primaries for the election of their leaders. is has increased the participation of party members in the decision-making process regarding the organisation and structure of parties, thereby increasing credibility and renewed interest in the political system (Haro, 1992).With regard to this candidate selection model, this doctrine has become an eective way of measuring the democratisation of political parties (Garrido, 2017), as well as a valuable instrument for resolving the dicult process of replacing political leaders (Boix, 1998). However, experience has revealed some drawbacks with primary elections. Among them, the literature shows that primaries might be construed as a sign of the inability to govern, or a sign of political opportunism on the part of their leaders, or possibly even a contradiction by presenting divergent internal positions. ey might also lead to excessive fragmentation, thereby weakening intra-party cohesion. Primary elections might also foster rivalries among diverse political trends, solidify conicts hidden from the public, and highlight the dierences between the political promises made to party members and voters (Conde, 2019; Blanco Valdés, 2016; Maravall, 2013; Boix, 1998; Haro, 1992).Nevertheless, the empirical reality shows the importance of primary elections in the selection of candidates, bearing two issues in mind. On the one hand, continued work is needed to improve the functioning of these processes in order to guarantee the participation of citizens in their diverse roles (Ignazi, 2021). On the other hand, progress must be made toward a more complex, nuanced political culture (Innerarity, 2019), which could mitigate the problems derived from these primary elections. e question is whether or not primaries are the most appropriate way to generate more plurality and give greater relevance to those represented (Boix, 1998). In view of this situation, one can arm that although primaries have become a nearly inescapable
62 | nº 35, pp. 59-81 | July-December of 2022Internal democracy of political parties in the age of political communication 2.0: the case of the 2018 primary...ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978doxa.comunicaciónrequirement, they should not be considered the only way to specically improve the quality of internal party democracy, nor the democratic quality of the system in general. Otherwise, disaection with politics and threats to the democratic system are likely to remain or worsen in the future, even if the reasons for this may change (Innerarity, 2002; Sartori et al., 1999).1.2. Primary elections of the Partido Popular in the era of political communication 2.0Society is increasingly aware of the importance of strengthening internal party democracy, and the way in which primary elections can contribute to this aim. However, citizens have little knowledge about the selection instruments used by parties, other than the rules contained in their statutes (Coller et al., 2019; Cordero and Coller, 2015). e statutes include the existence of closed primaries (such is the case with PSOE and Ciudadanos), in which party members choose the candidates for public positions through a vote that is direct, free, and condential. ey also include open primaries (such is the case with Compromís and Podemos), which are those in which any citizen, aliated or not, who is a registered voter can participate in the designation of candidates.e Partido Popular has decided to hold closed primaries in accordance with articles 31 and 32 of the National Statutes of the Party, approved at the XVIII National Congress held in February 2017 in Madrid, in both the Regulatory Guidelines of Congresses as well as the Regulations for the XIX Extraordinary National Congress of the Partido Popular. us, according to the agreement adopted on 11 June 2018 by the National Board of Directors, the XIX National Congress of the Partido Popular was held as an extraordinary event in Madrid on 20-21 July of 2018. Its mission was to elect the president of the Party, who would consequently be the candidate who might be selected and sworn in by Congress as President of the Government after the subsequent general elections. To this end, the nomination period for candidates was opened at 12 noon on the 18th of June. ose eligible to apply included all of those who had been members for at least the past 12 months and were up-to-date on payment of their membership fees, and who had the support of at least 100 members in full use of their rights. Six party leaders presented their candidacy to the Congress Organising Committee before 2 p.m. on 20 June: Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Pablo Casado, María Dolores de Cospedal, José Manuel García Margallo, José Ramón García Hernández, and Elio Cabanes. Finally, after José Luis Bayo’s candidacy was ruled out due to an error with the endorsements, the candidates for the party’s presidency were ocially proclaimed on 22 June, and the internal election campaign began.e campaign ran from 23 June to 4 July, with the rst round of voting taking place on 5 July with an 86% turnout. All party members who had registered to vote by 25 June were able to participate in the vote. e results were as follows: Sáenz de Santamaría obtained 37.03 % of the vote; Casado, 34.36 %; Cospedal, 25.97 %; García Margallo, 1.17 %; García Hernández, 1.15 %; and Cabanes had 0.32 %.None of the candidates obtained at least 50 % of the votes in the rst ballot, nor had anyone kept a distance of at least 15 points from the other contenders nor obtained an absolute majority in at least half of the sixty electoral constituencies.us, under the terms established by article 16.9 of the Framework Regulations for Congresses, the two candidates who received the most votes, Sáenz de Santamaría and Casado, were proclaimed the nal two candidates. Both had to undergo a new vote in
doxa.comunicación | nº 35, pp. 59-81 | July-December of 2022Marta Pérez-Gabaldón and Blanca Nicasio-VareaISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-397863order to obtain the support of the 3,082 delegates1 during the Congress held on 20 and 21 July of 2018. Finally, in the second vote, Casado emerged victorious with 1,701 (57.2 %) of the 2,973 votes cast, 451 more than Sáenz de Santamaría.is type of primary chosen by the Partido Popular is part of the dynamics of the relationship between members and the party’s governing bodies, according to which “it is not a question of transferring part of the decision regarding candidates to the citizens as a whole, but of democratising as much as possible how the decision-making process is carried out within the party itself, and of strengthening members’ rights” (Giménez, 2014: 219). Clearly, the PP considers this to be a highly signicant, relevant internal process. rough these primary elections, the party displays an image of internal democracy and transparency, both ad intra (inside) and ad extra (outside), thereby providing itself with leadership that arises from the will of the party’s rank and le members.To emphasise this image, the use of social networks was a crucial element in connecting with the aliated voters (and with the delegates in the second round), in order to achieve broad participation. One of the main aspects of elections within political parties is the communication strategy, which must ensure the participation of party members and supporters. Along these lines, in recent years social networks have been consolidated as fundamental instruments of political communication, both in electoral and primary campaigns, and in all other political processes as well (Marcos, et al., 2021; González, et al, 2020; Bustos and Ruiz, 2019; Campos-Domínguez, 2017; Vázquez, 2017; Quevedo et al., 2016; López, 2016; López et al., 2016; García, 2016; Gamir, 2016; Machado and Capdevila, 2016; Sampedro et al., 2013; Abejón et al., 2012; Barberá and Rivero, 2012; Izquierdo, 2012; Congosto et al., 2011; Castells, 2010, among others).eir use as a weapon for political action, or as a means for politicians and institutions to establish a connection with citizens, is no longer a mere possibility for the future, but an undisputed reality at the present time (Vallespín, 2011). is is due to the fact that social networks are used as an open, fast, eective, horizontal, two-way channel for communication and the dissemination of information, in order to make sure the message arrives to the voters-users with hardly any mediation or access barriers. ey also stand out for enabling self-promotion and the viralisation of messages adjusted to the needs of the candidates in the campaign (Galán-García, 2017). During this type of electoral period, Twitter is a key dissemination channel both for “publicising electoral programmes and promises made by candidates” (Simón, 2019, p. 79), and for criticising political opponents as well (Conde, 2019; Moue, 2010; Boix, 1998), in order to obtain the support of voters.At the same time, in today’s networked society (Castells, 2006, 2000), the percentage of the audience that consumes content from diverse platforms is increasing, leaving behind the usual way of obtaining political or other information (Pérez et al., 2017). is is due to the plethora of opportunities oered by ICT for interaction and conversation, with party members and supporters being co-participants in more deliberative politics (Steenbergen et al., 2003). Aliates or members of political organisations comprise a public that is active and informed, with a penchant for participation (Bustos and Ruiz, 2019; Sampedro and Resina, 2010). As a consequence of this situation, the development of electoral processes on the Internet provides tools that allow users to go beyond mediatised political discourse toward a narrative that is more innovative and based on interaction and the in-depth analysis of issues (Machado and Capdevila, 2016). 1 e National Congress shall be constituted, according to the provisions of the Statutes, by the long-standing as well as the elected delegates. e latter will number 2,612 –40 to the Party abroad and 10 to the Organising Commission, by virtue of the agreement adopted by the National Board of Directors on 11 June 2018.
64 | nº 35, pp. 59-81 | July-December of 2022Internal democracy of political parties in the age of political communication 2.0: the case of the 2018 primary...ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978doxa.comunicaciónus, the revitalising eorts of political parties as a result of introducing primary elections into their way of proceeding and organising themselves has increased with the transfer of these electoral processes to social media. ese are the spaces where network democracy (Sampedro et al., 2013) or democracy 2.0 (Caldevilla, 2009) takes place. Social networks also allow more citizen involvement in political decisions through new types of participation (Sánchez, 2014). us, since 2016, Twitter has been eectively and eciently integrated into the communication strategies of political parties and the candidates themselves (Lee and Lim, 2016). On the other hand, the opportunities oered by the Internet are not being fully exploited, given the scarce or even non-existent interaction between politicians and their voters. With some exceptions, the use of Twitter as a traditional communication platform has prevailed, yet with the predomination of one-way transmission of content, in practice (Renobell, 2021; Zugasti and Pérez, 2015; López et al., 2015; Criado et al., 2013; Grant et al., 2010). As a result, Twitter has not been used to establish dialogue between candidates, but rather to generate deaf dialogues in the best of cases (López, 2016).2. MethodologyBased on the foregoing context, the aim of this research is to analyse the use of communication on Twitter in the process of democratisation that the celebration of primary elections represents for political parties. For this purpose, we have studied the presence and activity on this social network of the two main candidates who competed in the PP primary elections in June and July of 2018. Specically, we have examined the two stages of the process. e rst phase ran from 23 June to 5 July, with the latter date being the day on which the two candidates with the most votes were chosen. e second phase was carried out from 6 to 21 July, and again, the latter date was the day on which the second vote took place during the party’s 19th Congress. In addition to examining this entire scenario, we have not neglected to study interaction with citizens. e study period was determined based on the deadlines established for the election of the party’s president, as stipulated in the Regulations for the XIX Extraordinary National Congress of the PP, given the existence of more than two candidates, according to the terms of article 11.c of the aforementioned Regulations.e selection of the candidates to be studied was made by taking into account those who had passed the rst round of the primary elections, and who competed in the second phase to be elected President of the party (Table 1).Table 1. Results of the voting by party members in the rst roundSáenz de Santamaría21,513Casado Blanco19,967De Cospedal15,090García Margallo680García Hernández668Cabanes Sanchís85Sources: prepared by the authors based on data published by the PP
doxa.comunicación | nº 35, pp. 59-81 | July-December of 2022Marta Pérez-Gabaldón and Blanca Nicasio-VareaISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-397865e following hypotheses have been set forth, based on research related to changes in political communication procedures in connection with the development of Internet and social media, specically in general and primary elections. H1: In terms of content of the messages, it is expected that the variable “proposals” will be the most used by the two candidates. H2: It is foreseen that the messages framed in the variable “criticism” will be directed at members of other political parties. On the other hand, we do not expect to nd messages critical of other candidates from their own party. H3: Broad public participation is to be expected in response to the content published by the candidates. H4: It is predicted that the 2.0 platform will be under-used as a tool to make the process of internal democracy visible during the primary elections, as the candidates will mostly resort to one-way use of the channel.In order to answer the hypotheses, a social research method based on content analysis of the political texts has been used. is is considered an established technique for determining the positions of political parties and their leaders (Alonso, Gómez and Volkens, 2012). e main objective pursued by content analysis is the structured representation of a large volume of data. Manual coding of the data was also attempted which, broadly speaking, can be identied with the domain of qualitative techniques (Navarro and Díaz, 1994). To this end, a qualitative analysis of the discourses has been carried out as well. Content analysis of a political message involves making decisions related to the sample, the breakdown into coding units, and the specic coding technique to be applied. In this regard, the sample is composed of 1,288 messages posted on Twitter in the period under study. Examination of each coding unit, which corresponds to every tweet that comprises the sample as a whole, has been carried out on two levels; one quantitative, and the other qualitative. For the quantitative analysis of the period indicated above, the total number of tweets and retweets on the proles of Casado and Sáenz de Santamaría were collected and counted manually. When the candidates used the Twitter option that allowed them to retweet a message by adding a message of their own, these were counted as their own tweets, due to the fact that by adding a comment they are generating their own content, which must be analysed specically. Moreover, within the two candidates’ own messages, the total number of retweets, likes, and comments were recorded in order to measure the degree of citizen interaction with the candidates.With regard to the development of a classication chart, also called a coding system, the following codes or variables have been established, in which the examined units of analysis have been classied as follows:1Information related to the primary election process (date and format of the ballot, procedural rules, etc.)2Information on campaign events3Call for participation and mobilisation to go to the polls4Active request to vote5Announcement of policy proposals6News headlines published in the media for the dissemination of interviews7Messages of support for the candidate from users
66 | nº 35, pp. 59-81 | July-December of 2022Internal democracy of political parties in the age of political communication 2.0: the case of the 2018 primary...ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978doxa.comunicación8Messages of support from the candidate to the political party9Messages of criticism10Other (messages that present content unrelated to the primary elections)Of these units of analysis, one is pointed out after the message has been read in full, and in this way, they are mutually exclusive variables2.3. Results3.1. Quantitative data analysisAfter compiling the information, a total of 1,288 messages were obtained. Of these, 432 tweets were found on Sáenz de Santamaría’s prole, and 856 on that of Casado. us, an initial assessment of the data shows more intensive use by the candidate who ultimately won the party’s primary election, with 66.5 % of the total sample analysed.Table 2. Number of messages published on the Twitter proles of Sáenz de Santamaría and Casado for the periods analysedTotal no. of tweets RTs Personal tweets % Personal tweets Avg. per day (of the total) Saenz de Santamaría 26/06/2018–05/07/20182015115074.62 %2006/07/2018–21/07/20182316816370.56 %14.4TOTAL432119313Casado26/06/2018–05/07/201839412926567 %39.406/072018–21/07/201846218527760 %28.8TOTAL856314542Source: prepared by the authors based on data from www.twitter.com