Digitization of Pre-Election Messages During The 2021 Parliamentary Campaign In Bulgaria

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Conference Proceedings
Authors: Neli VelinovaMariyan TomovLilia RaychevaLora Metanova

Abstract: The pre-election campaign for the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Bulgaria in April 2021 is being held in the conditions of social distance and strict observance of anti-epidemic measures against COVID-19. In a situation of inter-institutional crisis (lack of normal communication between the President and the Prime Minister), as well as of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, where moral values are being tested, politicians are facing a new type of communication of their election messages. Internet platforms, and especially social networks, have become increasingly popular channels for politicians to communicate with their constituents.The intense technological developments facilitate the digital form of communication via Internet. The chance to communicate directly in real time with potential voters, thus avoiding the interpretations of the mediator, has growing preference by political leaders. The extraordinary circumstances related to the spread of the Corona virus further catalyze the process, as they enhance audiences and institutions to redirect their way of communication mainly to the digital environment, thus making communication via social networks, regardless of the age of the audiences, even more popular. Many politicians choose this option as the preferred channel for their messages, including to the media, instead of using the usual press conferences. This raises the question of the growing importance of social networks in the process of communication between society and political leaders and leads to the reasonable assumption that this model of interaction will rigorously develop, especially in times of social isolation. That is why it is of particular importance to outline the trends and the peculiarities of the developments of these online relationships. The aim of this study focuses on the dynamics of online pre-election communication between politicians and society in the context of COVID-19. The object is the specifics of the internet connection between the contemporary digital audiences and the MP candidates during the 2021 pre-election campaign in Bulgaria. The subject of the research are the digital election messages of the political party leaders, presented in their Facebook profiles through video-ads, posters, addresses, etc. during the one-month pre-election campaign. The methodology is an empirical study and comparative analysis.The scope of the study includes political forces, which, according to opinion polls, have a chance to overcome the 4% barrier to entering the National Assembly. The study examines the verbal and non-verbal communication of the MP candidates, the quality of their messages in terms of positivity, negativity or neutrality, as well as their commitment to social, health, economic, technological and other important topics related to the welfare of the population in the country as a member-state of the European Union. The frequency of the usage of Facebook by the political leaders, the issues that dominate their messages, and the digital activity of the audiences are also tracked.The results of the study are indicative to those interested in digital political communication during social isolation of pandemic.The paper has been developed within the framework of research projects КP-06-CОST/5-18/06/2019 and КP-06-M35/4-18/12/2019 of the National Scientific Fund of Bulgaria.

Keywords: Digitalization, Political Communication, Pre-Election Messages, Social Networks Audiences

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001127

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