Friday, 7 October 2016

Enjoying a Government-free life in Spain

by Brian Bamford

SPAIN has not had an elected national government  for the last 291 days.  Being Spaniards this is seen as a rather good thing.  Félix Pastor told the New York Times that 'No government, no thieves'. Mr Pastor is a language teacher who echoes the view of many voters who are fed up with the corruption and other scandals that have been rooted in the administrations of both of the two previous governing parties:  PSOE (Socialist) and the Partido Popular (Conservative)..

Following the last two national general elections since last December, no party has won enough seats or been able to form a coalition with another party to establish a government.  Hence for the first time in four decades of democracy Spain has a caretaker government which has minimal and very limited powers. 

While in the UK Theresa May has just told the Conservative Conference in Birmingham that government can be good, in Spain the people cast a contemptuous eye over the scheming politicians.  Last Saturday, the Socialists' leader, Pedro Sánchez, stepped down in a step that should help his party to agree to the re-election of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and a government led by his conservative Popular Party. 

The Spanish political party bosses may fear that the modern Spaniards are getting too used to a state with no government.  Both the English and the Spanish working-classes historically distrust their politicians, the only difference being that while the English take a passive attitude of scepticism towards politics often voting with a yawn, the Spaniards have historically confronted the politics of the state with an alternative politics of the streets, the community and the trade union.  To understand this it may be helpful to read George Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' for a glimpse of a form of socialism without the state.

Writing from Madrid the journalists Raphael Minder and David Zucchino write in Tuesday's International New York Times:.

'Spain's leaders warned that having no government would mean chaos and deprivation.  Instead, more than anything, the crisis seems to have offered a glimpse of life if politicians simply stepped out of the way.  For many here, it has not been all that bad.'

Last December, Spaniards were expecting a radical change in their politics with two new parties contending for the first time; these new parties Podemos and Cuidadanos had won a third of the parliamentary seats.  But no party has since been able to agree or muster a majority.  The Socialist PSOE party is now in melt-down. 

Spain is fortunate in so far as the 17 regional governments have extensive powers.  It is these that supply health care, education and many other needs of daily life.

Santiago Lago Peñas, an economics professor in Galicia, told the New York Times:

'For a Spanish citizen, the most relevant government is the regional government is the regional one.'

Outside of the capital in Madrid Spaniards are suspicious, and Ana Cancela, a civil servant told the New York Times:

'We already knew the politicians were corrupt, but now we also see that they can't even make politics work.'

The editor of the news website said:

'A lot of people said we would go to hell if we didn't form a government, but we're still here.'

We must wait to see what conclusions Spaniards draw from the current situation.

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