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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:05AM   |  Add a comment
Social Democratic Radical Party (Chile), Logo

Elections are scheduled this year in five countries in Latin America, namely Chile, Panama, Uruguay, El Salvador, and Honduras. World Audit rates the first three countries as "fully democratic," and the other two as "qualified democracies," meaning that there are some flaws.

In much of Latin America, “street poster art” is an influential political medium, and during election campaigns, posters are omnipresent. This is true even as the influences of television and the Internet have become greater. The standard practice is to maximize the impact of a poster’s message by pasting many copies of the same poster in rows or columns. This repetition attracts attention. During the 2005 Chilean presidential election,  “one [could not] seem to leave the house without being subject to posters lined up on every street,” according to one report. That posters are essential in Latin America is not surprising, considering a recent survey found that almost 80 percent of the region’s campaign managers believed the image of a candidate was the most important factor in a political campaign. Furthermore, 24 percent of these political professionals indicated that street posters were of “exceptional importance” in campaign advertising strategy, a percentage almost as high as for daily newspapers (29 percent) and private television (30 percent).

In 1970, Chile witnessed a momentous election campaign, which culminated in the election of Salvador Allende Gossens, a Socialist, as president. Supporters of Allende were excited and hopeful for change, with other voters fearful of what would happen in the country if he won. Some in Allende’s Socialist Party called for seizing power, if he was not elected. Three years later, Allende was found dead, after a military takeover, the presidential palace bombed beyond repair, and General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was declared the dictatorial leader. It was apparent that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, under President Richard Nixon, had worked to prevent Allende’s election, and—after he had won—helped to destabilize the regime. The details are supplied in my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History, along with sections on other nations in the region.

Free elections occurred again in Chile only in 1990. In 2005, Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the candidate of Allende's Socialist Party (which is part of a coalition, Concert of Parties for Democracy or CPD), was elected president of Chile—the first woman to hold the office—winning a runoff election  with 53.5% of the vote.

At the right is the logo of the Social Democratic Radical Party of Chile (another member of the CPD), with the rose as its symbol—like many Socialist Parties around the world, including those in Brazil, Romania, Switzerland, Spain, Serbia, Ukraine, France, and the British Labour Party.

Also at the right is a poster, which targeted feminists, from the 1970 Allende campaign.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:05PM   |  2 comments
"At The Moment of Truth," Defaced Poster of Livni, with Barak [center] and Netanyahu [right] (2009) [Photo: EPA]

Israel's parliamentary election is this Tuesday, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party slightly favored to regain power. Since the Israeli incursion into Gaza last month, polls indicate an increase in popularity for the conservatives of Likud, whose main opposition is the ruling Kadima Party, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is perceived as more moderate than Netanyahu. To the right of Netanyahu and his party is Soviet-born Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) Party is also doing well in the polls. It appears as though the hardliners toward the Palestinians may gain power. One consequence is that Netanyahu, if elected, will not stop building settlements in "occupied" territories. [See article in Reuters for more information on the campaign and U.S.-Israeli relations]

However, there has been a late shift back to the Kadima Party in the polls. Right now, according to the latest data, Likud will gain 27 seats and Kadima 25—out of 120 seats in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). Yisrael Beiteinu will win 14 seats. The Labour Party, led by Ehud Barak (another former prime minister), trails badly. The leader of the party with a plurality will then attempt to put together a coalition government. According to Jason Koutsoukis of Fairfax Digital Network, even if Livni's party wins the most seats, it will be difficult for her to form a coalition, since Lieberman's party has similar stands to those of Likud.

As for the campaign, many Israelis are uncharacteristically lacking in enthusiasm for the candidates and their positions, according to David Blair of Britain's Weekly Telegraph. Of course, campaign posters continue to be seen on the streets, but fewer rallies have been held.

One group—suspected to be Orthodox extremists—defaced posters of Livni in Jerusalem. It probably had less to do with her centrist positions, and more to do with opposition to images of women being seen in public, wrote Shelly Paz of The Jerusalem Post.


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