TV and elections

TV and elections

The audiovisualization of politics began. It is a determining reality for monitoring and evaluating the leaders who will be up for election on March 10th. Despite the ‘new media’, television maintains a prominent place in the world of political communication, particularly during electoral periods. A few years ago, the late Emídio Rangel caused controversy when he stated that television elected a President. His critics considered his thinking excessive and lacking in adherence to reality. It was understood that television did not have the power that was being attributed to it. It is essential to situate these statements and the debate they sparked in due time. We were still far from the comments of a million and a half viewers on Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s Sundays in the years that preceded his departure from the screen to Belém. Likewise, the academic discussion about the effects of television accentuated the “Pavlovian effect” character that the same would have, underestimating the critical capacity and judgment of the spectators.

The most recent approaches to the television phenomenon highlight its influence among undecided voters. Now, taking into account the various opinion studies, never before has the number of voters who do not express any intention of voting been so significant as in these elections. It is precisely in this context that the audiovisualization of politics deserves to be analyzed. On the one hand, television allows the evaluation of candidates in a situation of argumentative confrontation. It is not just about checking the level of preparation that the candidates show regarding the sustainability of their respective electoral programs, but, mainly, the way in which they are able to defend the messages previously studied through the logic of the adversaries’ contradiction. It is in this field of study that we place the so-called rhetoric of persuasion. Persuasion in the sense of convincing.

It is also important to consider that in these elections there are new leaders. These are performances that will be scrutinized in an electoral debate situation. Let’s see: Paulo Raimundo succeeded Jerónimo de Sousa, who gained sympathy from all his opponents, but was unable to stop the sharp decline of the CDU, even in historically communist municipalities. On television, Paulo Raimundo will have to try to prevent this continuous erosion of the CDU vote. This is his main challenge. Mariana Mortágua goes into the debates with the advantage of extensive television experience, seeking to grow the Bloco de Esquerda and demonstrating the indispensability of her party if the PS wins the elections and designing a political solution for governance on the left. Rui Rocha, who revealed a well-structured thought in the debate with Pedro Nuno Santos, will have to mobilize several lines of speech, the most relevant of which will be to establish and, if possible, expand the electoral base of the Liberal Initiative in order to avoid strengthening Chega with a possible diversion of votes from IL that some understood as having lost edge since the departure of Cotrim de Figueiredo’s leadership.

In the PS and PSD or AD, both Pedro Nuno Santos and Luís Montenegro have no room for error in television debates. As they are the two main candidates for the leadership of the next government, both will have to maintain and expand their respective electoral support bases, more so in the case of Montenegro. On television, leadership skills, credibility of proposals and charisma will be put to the test. These are important variables that will or will not contribute to the result on March 10th. From this point of view, the elections will help us, once again, to understand what the contribution of television dynamics is today and to what extent television is or is not decisive in shaping the meaning of voting.


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