Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Squaring the Spanish Circle

SPANISH politics is in a state of shock following the latest elections which some now ask if this 'is the dawn of a new era?'    Following the result of the regional elections earlier this year it was not unexpected that the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP), which won a landslide victory four years ago, would suffer.  In the event it has now lost more than three million votes, leaving the PP of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy with the most votes at 29% of the total turn out, and 123 of the 350 seats in the Spanish Parliament, but well less than an overall majority.  

The alternating big two-party system of the PP and the Socialist Party (PSOE) which has dominated Spanish politics since the death of Franco in 1975, could now be on its last legs.   

The main reason for this political 'ruptura' being the rise of the Podemos meaning 'We can' led by 37-year-old Pablo Iglesias, which got 20% of the vote just behind PSOE.  Podemos was founded as a far-left party by a group of university professors, and it went on to accuse not just a particular Government but what it called 'the regime of 1978' (the year of the Spanish Constitution). 

In a way the socialist PSOE suffered more tellingly than the conservative PP, for while the PP was hit after having implemented years of unpopular austerity policies, after years in opposition the socialist PSOE lost more than a million votes in the election, mostly no doubt to Podemos.   

Given the history of Spain with its roots in the Civil War and anarchism it is probably not surprising that what some are calling the 'new politics' is being pioneered in Spain and southern Europe.  With over 20% unemployment and the young hit hardest, it is surprising that the established parties didn't get a worse result given their involvement in cases of widespread corruption, cronyism, scandals and political incompetence. 

Yet, the old parties, both the PP and the PSOE, seem determined to hold out against the shock of the new.  The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the run up to the elections refused to share a platform on TV with the new parties of Podemos and the Ciudadanos (Citizens), a kind of centre-right Podemos.  And, last Saturday in El Pais, the socialist general secretary of PSOE, Pedro Sánchez  was adamant that his party would not  unite 'the PSOE with a pact of the Left that respete the integrity of the Spanish territory' and if Podemos wanted a referendum for Catalan independence, a pact with them would not be possible:

'If Podemos insists on its condition of celebrating a referendum in Catalonia, an accord will not be possible.' 

The socialist PSOE won 90 seats against the 123 seats that went to the conservative PP, but Podemos got 69.and the centrist new party Ciudadanos had 40 seats.   

The Spanish economy is the forth-largest in the eurozone, yet it is hard to see how with a election result like this that it will be possible for any possible coalition of the parties to hold the fort without another election that can give a clearer result.  For the Spanish socialists their share of the vote has crashed by half from 44% to 22% in only two elections.  Yet this would still be enough to make them the King-makers but the two alternative choices for coalition with the PSOE are toxic:    the PSOE has made it clear it would not support the re-election of Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister and PP leader which would split the leftist elements of the party who would then turn to Podemos; and Pedro Sanzchez has said that he would not go into alliance with Podemos so long as it remains committed to an independence referendum in Catalonia, the north eastern Spanish region, historically anarcho-syndicalist, that has long been the centre of  secessionist aims.

1 comment:

Carlos Figueroa said...

Thank you Brian,we are in a mess !And Catalonia is arriving to independence day.
Greetings from cold spain

Carlos Figueroa