Tweeting politicians in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia & Ukraine – Part 2: Prime Ministers

Tweeting Politicians in Central and Eastern Europe_Part 2 Prime Ministers

Last week, I presented a ranking of tweeting presidents in Central and Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Russia. In the second part in my article series on tweeting politicians in the region, I look at tweeting prime ministers. Keep an eye on the SSEES Research blog where I will be posting a summary of my rankings and a few further thoughts in January next year. Furthermore, make sure to follow me and this blog on twitter (@pres_activism) to keep updated. Again, for the sake of this article I include Russia & Ukraine in the term ‘Central and Eastern Europe’.

Overview

Out of the 12 prime ministers in CEE EU member states, Ukraine and Russia, 11 have a confirmed presence on twitter (i.e. all except for Bulgaria). Again, we find a mixture of personal accounts and institutional accounts run by staff. As the prime minister is the head of government, I have also included accounts of the government’s office/office of the cabinet of ministers in addition or en lieu of a personal account (although inactivity on one account could only partially be compensated by activity of the other).

Below I present a summary for each account. As I did for presidents, I have created a ranking of tweeting prime ministers that takes into account 1) whether it is a personal/institutional account, 2) activity/frequency of tweets, 3) ‘interestingness’ of tweets/whether it is worth following, 4) language of tweets, and 5) other interesting details (if applicable).

A ranking of tweeting prime ministers

[unranked] Lithuania
Algirdas Butkevicius (@AButkevivius)
Official government account (@Vyriausybe)

Algirdas Butkevicius on Twitter

Lithuanian government on twitter

Account type: personal & institutional
Account status: activity unclear
Follower: 181 [personal] / 1,181 [institutional]
Tweets to date: 34 [personal] / 704 [institutional]
Language: Lithuanian [both]
Worth following: Probably not; maybe, if you speak Lithuanian [both]

Unfortunately, Lithuania has – once again – to be left unranked. While in the case of president Grybauskaite the start of a new twitter account prevented me from sensibly including her into my ranking of tweeting presidents, prime minister Butkevicius has only be sworn into office on 22 November and has thus not had the opportunity to tweet as much others.

However, Butkevicius has not been an avid twitterer in the past. Since the opening of his account in late March 2011, he has tweeted only 34 times. Furthermore, he apparently did not tweet anything since 6 September 2012 and thus also not during the electoral campaign (he won nonetheless). His predecessor, Andrius Kubilius (@AndriusKubilius), tweeted more often – even though also only once every other day. The fact that twitter does not play a big role for both of them is evidenced by the fact that Butkevicius’ account still says that he is the leader of the opposition while Kubilius still presents himself as prime minister of Estonia.

The twitter account of the government is also not very active – tweets are send only once every few days, sometimes with one or two weeks without anything. And while it is maybe not a bad idea that the official government account did not tweet during the last days of the electoral campaign (the last tweet is from 19 October), I would have at least expected a tweet on the appointment of the new prime minister. In conclusion: If you speak Lithuanian and you do not like it if your twitter feed crowds up, then these accounts might be for you – for all others, it is probably not worth it.

10. Robert Fico (@Robert Fico), Slovakia

Robert Fico on Twitter

Account type: personal
Account status: inactive
Follower: 274
Tweets to date: 6
Language: Slovak
Worth following: No

While the twitter accounts of the Lithuanian government and prime minister didn’t look very promising but showed at least some activity, the account of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico even worse and is therefore ranked last. The first tweet was sent on 4 December 2009 at 6.49pm, a little more than 24 hours and 5 more tweets later the account became inactive (the last tweet was on 5 December 2009 at 9.04pm). Not only did Fico not live up to the promises of his first tweets (using twitter to communicate with voters, reacting to current events) but I also assume that he did not change his account description between July 2010 and March 2012 when not he but Iveta Radicova served as Prime Minister of Slovakia (Radicova deleted her personal account after she left office and politics for good). Even the fact that Robert Fico and Vladimir Putin both have a thing for Arnold Schwarzenegger (Fico as well as both accounts of the Russian president follow him) cannot save him from coming last in this ranking.

Tied for 8./9. (discussed together below)

Office of the Government (@kormany_hu), Hungary

Hungarian government on Twitter

Account type: institutional
Account status: active
Follower: 413
Tweets to date: 956
Language: Hungarian
Worth following: yes, but with exceptions

Office of the Government (@strakovka), Czech Republic

Czech Government on TwitterAccount type: institutional
Account status: active
Follower: 5,489
Tweets to date: 653
Language: Czech
Worth following: yes, but with exceptions

The government offices of both the Czech Republic and Hungary have opted for an institutional account instead of creating personal accounts for their prime ministers. Both accounts are not the most active tweeters with one tweet every day/every few days, usually with links to announcements on the government’s websites. Unfortunately, both accounts only tweet in Czech or Hungarian, respectively (especially in the Hungarian case an English would be very much appreciated as Czech can still be read and understood with the knowledge of another west-Slavonic language). Consequently, both accounts do neither re-tweet (although at least the Czech account follows 262 other users; the Hungarian account follows no other users) nor interact with other twitter users. In sum, both accounts are only worth following with exceptions: You will need to be able to read Czech or Hungarian and you should not be in need of frequent updates from their governments.

7. Janez Janša (@JJansaSDS), Slovenia

Janez Jansa on Twitter

Account type: personal
Account status: active (?)
Follower: 12,922
Tweets to date: 181
Language: Slovenian
Worth following: maybe

Janez Jansa has been on twitter with a personal account since June 2011 and thus before he became prime minister of Slovenia in February 2012. In the beginning he was a very active tweeter and frequently interacted with other user; unfortunately (but also to be expected) this declined rapidly when he was inaugurated as prime minister. Since then, he has only tweeted 24 times. His last tweet is from 17 November, but before that he did not tweet anything for almost half a year. Furthermore, while his re-tweets are frequently in English his own tweets are usually exclusively in Slovenian. Last, there is no governmental twitter account to compensate for his inactivity which is why Jansa only comes in 6th in this ranking. Having a personal account and having been an avid twitter user in the past however saves Jansa from being ranked lower than the government accounts of Hungary and the Czech Republic.

6. Office of the Government (@StenbockiMaja, @EstonianGovt), Estonia

Estonian Government on Twitter

Account type: institutional
Account status: active [both]
Follower: 1,328 [Estonian version], 765 [English version]
Tweets to date: 416 [Estonian version], 336 [English version]
Language: Estonian, English [depending on account]
Worth following: yes, but with exceptions

The Estonian government has two twitter accounts – one in Estonian (@StenbockiMaja) and one in English (@EstonianGovt). This bilinguality is laudable and prevents Estonia to slide down in this ranking. However, both accounts are – as it is also stated in their description – simply RSS feeds of announcements on the government website. There is thus no interaction with other users. Nevertheless, almost all Estonian announcements also appear in English and tweets are moderately frequent (on average about one or two per day).

It is a pity that the Estonian government is now ranked so low after president Ilves made first place in my ranking of tweeting presidents. You can still follow the government’s twitter account but checking their website now and then will probably do as well. Nevertheless, as the accounts cater both to speakers of Estonian and English, and tweet regularly, Estonia is ranked higher than Slovenia’s Janez Jansa and the governmental twitter accounts of the Czech Republic and Hungary.

5. Office of the Cabinet of Ministers (@Kabmin_UA, @Kabmin_UA_e, @Kabmin_UA_r), Ukraine

Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers on Twitter

Account type: institutional
Account status: active [both]
Follower: 708 [Ukrainian], 490 [English], 564 [Russian]
Tweets to date: 11,764 [Ukrainian], 5,178 [English], 6,620 [Russian]
Language: Ukrainian, English, Russian [depending on account]
Worth following: yes, but with exceptions

The accounts of the Office of the Ukrainian cabinet of ministers is the only trilingual account in this ranking (although languages are spread over three different accounts). In contrast to the now inactive account of the Ukrainian president (which consequently came last in my ranking of tweeting presidents) all three accounts can be described as very active and the Ukrainian language account has had the highest number of tweets of the accounts I have reviewed so far. Unfortunately, the accounts’ followership is far behind with less than 1,800 followers on all accounts combined. Furthermore, even though not a RSS-feed as in the Estonian case the accounts’ descriptions clearly state that tweets are only news from the government’s websites. Thus, there are no re-tweets or interactions with users. The only remarkable feature of all accounts is that they follow Evgen Kostenko (@Kostenko_eg) an advisor to the speaker of parliament and web-developer – it seems likely that it was him who set up the accounts in the first place. Still, the trilinguality and the astonishing number of tweets propel Ukraine to the fifth place in this ranking.

4. Dimitri Medvedev (@MedvedevRussia, @MedvedevRussia_E), Russia

Dimitri Medvedev on Twitter

Account type: personal
Account status: active [both]
Follower: 1,558,347 [Russian version], 448,091 [English version]
Tweets to date: 651 [Russian version], 498 [English version]
Language: Russian, English [depending on account]
Worth following: yes, but with exceptions

Russian prime minister Dimitri Medvedev has the largest followership among the prime ministers in this ranking. Even his less-followed English language account has almost half a million followers while the Russian, and slightly more active version of his accounts boasts with more than one and a half million. Furthermore, other than in the case of the Kremlin’s accounts Medvedev’s tweets seem to be composed (mostly) by himself. Therefore, the relatively low frequency of tweets is at least partly excusable. Nevertheless, Medvedev does not make it into the top three of this ranking as hardly any of his tweets relate to the substance of his activity, i.e. there are almost no political statements or comments on current affiars. Even when he was still president (his twitter account was established in June 2010) this was rare – observers of Russian politics will probably see this as a confirmation of Vladimir Putin’s supremacy in the ‘tandemocracy’.

However, Medvedev is certainly the most entertaining of the tweeting prime ministers in this ranking. Recently, he has discovered instagram and often tweets pictures from his state visits (such as the picture of a Finnish sauna during his visit to Helsinki or views from various windows – 1, 2, 3). Last but not least: Just as his predecessor and successor Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, Medvedev follows (both with his Russian and his English account) the tweets of Arnold Schwarzenegger and even congratulated him on his birthday.

3. Victor Ponta (@Victor_Ponta), Romania

Victor Ponta on twitterAccount type: personal/institutional
Account status: active
Follower: 3,766
Tweets to date: 1,453
Language: Romanian, English
Worth following: Yes

The twitter account of Victor Ponta appears to be one of the most professional of the prime minister accounts in this ranking (and is actually the only one that clearly states who runs it – in this case Ponta’s staff). There are usually several tweets per day and these are consistently in Romanian and English. Ponta also relies on a whole ranger of other social media: he writes an occasional blog, has an active Facebook page, a Youtube channel and even an iPhone app.

Nevertheless, there are several issues which let him slide down in this ranking. First, it seems that not all of the people who run the account do not know the difference between a hashtag, the @ and the answer to a specific tweet – for instance, there are several tweets on 23 November relating to an article by Ponta in the Huffington Post (from 22 November) but as Ponta’s tweets end with ‘#huffingtonpost’ his followers have no easy way to see what he refers to (unless they scroll through all of his tweets). Furthermore, many of the English tweets simply refer to new videos on his Youtube channel or photos of his Facebook page (‘I have dX new photos….’; ‘I have uploaded a Youtube video…’). Last, compared to president Traian Basescu, Ponta’s followership is relatively small (president Basescu has four times the number of followers). Therefore, Ponta only comes third in this ranking.

2. Office of the Prime Minister (@PremierRP), Poland

Polish Prime Minister's Office in Twitter

Account type: institutional
Account status: active
Follower: 15,916
Tweets to date: 2,565
Language: Polish; retweets in English & French
Worth following: Yes

The Office of the Polish Prime Minister stands out from the others as it is an active tweeter, has a sizable number of followers and is interactive. Donald Tusk’s staff frequently retweet tweets by cabinet ministers and the government’s or ministries’ spokespersons. While the office itself does not compose its tweets in foreign languages, the account re-tweets tweets in English (sometimes even French). Furthermore, staff like to show their approachable/humorous side and re-tweet pictures of the Boeing dreamliner landing in Warsaw and reply to other users.

The reason why the account does not make it to the top of this ranking despite its relative large followership is that it lacks a bit of a personal note. This is of course natural from an institutional account but it does not even tweet quotes of PM Donald Tusk on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the combination of informative tweets, followership and interaction with users still suffice for the second place in this ranking.

1. Valdis Dombrovskis (@VDombrovskis)/(@Brivibas36), Latvia

Valdis Dombrovskis on TwitterAccount type: personal & institutional
Account status: active
Follower: 17,329 [personal], 4,423 [institutional]
Tweets to date: 1,348 [personal], 3,498 [institutional]
Language: Latvian, English [personal]; Latvian (a few re-tweets in English) [institutional]
Worth following: Yes

Again, a politician from the Baltics makes it to the top of the ranking: Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis is ranked first here for several reasons. First, he has a personal account on which he actively tweets (mostly in Latvian but occasionally in English with several English re-tweets) which is supplemented by a government account (which tweets less frequently, although also in Latvian and – sometimes – English). Second, Dombrovskis replies to tweets and questions by other users (including reactions to his own tweets) and posts (apparently) self-taken photos (or photos of him taken with his own phone). Third, Dombrovskis personal account has an impressive followership for a politician who mostly tweets in Latvian surpassing the followership of the account Polish PM’s office by almost 1,500 followers.

The fact that both Dombrovskis’ personal account and the government account are not the most frequent tweeters in this ranking and do not consistently tweet in bilingually has of course not bypassed my attention. Nevertheless, I believe that the quality of their tweets (short statements and interesting re-tweets instead of a mere RSS-feed as in the Estonian case) easily compensates for that. So even if you do not follow Latvian affairs too closely, these accounts are worth following nonetheless.

Latvian Government on Twitter

3 thoughts on “Tweeting politicians in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia & Ukraine – Part 2: Prime Ministers

    • Hello and thank you for your comment! There are different definitions of what constitutes Central and Eastern Europe and I agree that placing the Baltic states into this group might not always be the best choice. However, contrary to the United Nations report on which the wikipedia article that you quote relies academics who (just like me) focus on the post-socialist and post-Soviet EU member states tend to include the Baltic states into the term ‘Central and Eastern Europe’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_and_Eastern_Europe). // Best wishes, Philipp Köker

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