The International Writers Magazine: From our Correspondent in Spain
Crying Wolf? + Readers Comments
As Podemos surges - is Spain on the Venezuelan path to ruin?
We’ve just had municipal and certain autonomous region elections this last Sunday, the 24th. The results have come through and there is no doubt that they could set the pattern of forthcoming attractions when Spaniards once again go to the polls in November to vote for the future government of the country. Up until the day before the elections the Conservative Party (PP) placed all its bets on denouncing the opposition, especially the incumbent new players as mere amateurs.
The President, Sr. Mariano Rajoy had been pontificating on the continuing positive results of the economic turnaround that has taken place ever since his party has been in power. It is true that Spain has had an economic growth rate, reducing the deficit, avoiding a banking disaster and imposing strict austerity measures that have in many ways paid off. But is has not been enough. Not only has the message fallen on deaf ears, but because his plan of action over the past three years has been solely focused on solving the finances, he has ignored all the other promises that were made before the general election three years ago. He did not revoke the previous abortion law, raised taxes that hurt the middle class, allowed Catalonia to continue down the path of seeking independence and above all embarked on a campaign of ‘terror’ denouncing the opposition parties in an effort to woo the electorate before the elections. Big mistake!
Although in theory he was correct in his attempt to show the Spanish public that the up and coming organizations like ‘Podemos’ (‘We Can’) and to a lesser extent ‘Ciudadanos’ were two new political parties with no government experience whatsoever, his approach was wrong. He pointed out that all they were offering was theoretical programs with no practical background and that should they gain any power it would be a disaster to his present economic program. It backfired. Most of the younger generation, especially those that fell into the 50% unemployment bracket just didn’t buy it. The result was catastrophic to say the least. The Conservative Party (PP), although did manage to gain many votes, is in tatters, whilst the whole of the left wing plethora of parties from Marxists to radical Nationalists that are now fighting for vital government positions, are having a ball. At the moment, bargaining and joint venture agreements are taking place in thirteen autonomous regions and over eight thousand town council. Until the middle of June the country won’t have a clear idea of who is in charge although all have vowed to oust the PP wherever they can; a very dangerous move.
The international and European press have reported on the results but none have elaborated on the long term effects. I shall not delve on what has already been reported but try to present a broader and longer term picture of forthcoming attractions as well as specific cases of the surprised results.
What has happened in Spain is a new approach in the way election management as well as campaigning is carried out, especially by the charismatic party leader of Podemos (We can), Pablo Iglesias. Whereas the old school established parties maintained their method of presenting their program through ‘Party Political Broadcasts’ issuing constant statistical information on the economy, Sr. Iglesias, through Podemos’ Website initially presented a full blown detailed program designed by an expert team of academics that left no stone unturned on how Spain had to change and on what conditions. This followed by the leaders constantly appearing on television interviews as well as chat shows explaining the same, travelling all over the country and what turned out to be vital, were in direct contact with hundreds of thousands of citizens through channels such as Facebook and Twitter. It worked. The second point was that they were not going to present themselves for election as a proper political party until they were ready for the General Elections at the end of the year. Instead they would support the parties in each region and town council that agreed to their manifesto. A plethora of candidates approached them, were selected and the end result has been a roaring success. Spain has been politically turned on its head.
These are the major political changes that will take place over the next few months.
- The capital, the city of Madrid has fallen into the hands of Ms. Manuela Carmena, a 71 year old judge and ex-communist whose party ‘Ganemos’ (‘Lets win), backed by Podemos will form a government with the socialists. Her first move will be to paralyze several projects valued at 7 Billion Euros.
- The same has occurred in the city of Barcelona. Ms. Ada Colou with her party ‘BComú’ again backed by Podemos, is ready to take over the 2nd major city in Spain. The confederation of Catalan businesses has already voiced concerns as this will also clash with the regional president Sr. Artur Mas whose party CiU is of right wing tendency. Amidst all this new political confusion is the continued plea by Catalans for independence from Spain.
- The third major blow is the fall of Valencia, a conservative stronghold over the past 20 years although negotiations are still going on as to who will actually take control. Rest assured, Podemos is behind it.
The rest of the political panorama in Spain is similar. There are hundreds if not thousands of town councils that are all gearing up to negotiating allegiances. One point is certain, the whole of the left wing sector is intent in literally ‘destroying’ the conservative party (PP). They wish to wipe out the party from the map. This is the main message that has been emanating from all corners of Spain.
Meanwhile, the Socialist leader, Sr. Pedro Sanchez who had vowed months ago that his party would never negotiate with any ‘Populist’ movement, obviously referring to Podemos has completely changed his tune, has even referred to them as a new type of Social-Democrat Party and is ready to enter into negotiations wherever a coalition government is required. This has not gone down well with the Socialist President of Andalucía, Ms. Susana Diaz (see previous reports on this region’s elections) who has counteracted this approach by saying, ‘We’ll treat each case individually’. One must bear in mind that the socialists lost just as many votes as the conservatives.
But what will happen to the conservatives? Good question. One pundit said that Sr. Rajoy was like Humpy Dumpty who had a great fall and needed ‘putting back together again’.
On a serious note, Sr. Mariano Rajoy, as a good stubborn Galician, continues to argue that the economy is what really counts and that he does not intend to change course. It will take time, he argues but Spain will eventually come out of the present crisis. Any other course of action would spell disaster. Whether or not he reshuffles his present cabinet or presents a different approach to woe back the public before the general elections is another question. He has six months left before November to do it.
There is a rather amusing final touch to all this political caper. The final of the ‘King’s Cup’ football match was played on Saturday the 30th between Barcelona (Catalonia) and Athletic Bilbao (Basque Country). Both these regions are seeking independence from Spain and the Catalans are also keen in reverting the region into a republic. Amidst whistle blowing whilst the Spanish anthem was played and watched by King Felipe VI with Sr. Artur Mas, President of Catalonia on one side and Sr. Iñigo Irkullu, President of the Basque Country on the other, Barcelona won by 3 goals to 1. Barcelona’s Leo Messi scored a goal that will no doubt go down in the history books as one of the finest.
The next few months are crucial and I suspect that the international financial institutions, the stock markets and especially the banking world will be keeping a close watch on whether or not this country finally goes down the same path as Greece did. (Or even worse Venezuela) Time will tell.
See you next month.
© James G. Skinner. June 2015.
Readers Comments: June 6th
James, I have read your 'Crying Wolf' article & have followed your comments & views over a very long time.
Although Rajoy is correct regarding the importance of the economy, I remember you saying very clearly & frequently that the economy suffered from severe structural problems which polarised business & the unions/socialists.
It would appear to me that nothing has been done to address these problems & they will ultimately destroy the Spanish economy. I believe you were forecasting this 3/4 years ago.
Mrs Thatcher addressed these labour-related problems here in the 1980s & it is the reason our economy (The UK) can turn round faster than others within Europe.
The other big killer for Spain is the rampant corruption.
Here, the policies put forward by SNP, Plaid Cymru & the Greens did not persuade voters. Our electorate are not stupid & wondered where the imaginary money would come from to end austerity.
I think Cameron is in a very strong position. Half of our problems relate to EU membership & the other half are self-inflicted by our lousy public sector.
With Greece falling apart & Spain likely to go the same way the EU will have its hands full. In addition, they have yet to suffer the fall-out of their sanctions against Russia. Putin is determined to bring down the Euro & I think he can do it. Closer federalisation is fine if you have the Euro but logic says you need a different agreement if you have a separate currency.
Syriza & Podemos will be able to form an alliance with the SNP (Scottish Neo-Stalinist Party) when the rest of the UK asks them to go independent!
Musical Chairs in Spain
The circus acts have already started... rest assured it is going to be exciting, especially as the present government are losing ground due to mounting corruption scandals