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The International Writers Magazine: Comment

Time to Hold Your Breath in Spain
• James Skinner
With recent terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and elsewhere in the world it is only natural that the present Spanish government, similar to the rest of Europe is on a ‘high alert’ mode. ISIS has vowed to reconquer Al Andalus sooner or later, thus level 4 of maximum security has been imposed throughout the country.

election poll

Short of sending in the troops to ‘walk the streets’, raids on possible jihad cells have increased with positive results, and although it has not been made public one assumes that the National Security Council is burning midnight oil cooperating and exchanging valuable information with the rest of its colleagues on the continent. But there is one point that stands out and differs from Spain’s Western allies. It is days away from holding its General Elections and the ‘Ghost of Banquo’ has appeared on the scene.

On the 11th of March, 2004, 3 separate trains in Madrid were blown up with 190 deaths and around 2000 injured. The Conservatives (PP) were in power with Jose Maria Aznar as President. Elections were to be held 3 days later. Although the government according to the polls was favored to win, due to ‘errors of judgement’ as described in my novel ‘The Galician Parallax, the Socialist’s won and Sr. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was elected president.  

The present conservative government of Sr. Mariano Rajoy is fully aware of the situation and this time round is taking no chances. In fact, the party’s ratings have increased. Nevertheless, the geopolitical situation is far from similar to that of 10 years ago. In fact it has radically changed as seen during the recent municipal and autonomous regional elections that were a sort of ‘preview’ of forthcoming attractions. Although most of my essays since May have reported on these changes it is worth mentioning that the bi-partisan political system in Spain since the restoration of democracy 40 years ago has been shattered with the advent of two new and powerful players that may challenge the leadership of the presidency; center right and left, Ciudadans (Citizens) and ultra-left Podemos (We Can) with leaders Albert Rivera and Pablo Iglesias respectively. Both are vowing for the presidency in a four-way struggle together with the Sr. Rajoy and Sr. Pablo Sanchez, the new charismatic socialist (PSOE) candidate.

Returning to the ‘terrorist’ scenario, Sr. Rajoy has held consultations with most of the leaders of the political parties, including the minority ones and has managed to sign an ‘anti-terrorist’ agreement. Most have agreed, at state level, that despite the upcoming elections they will conform to whatever European mandate may emerge in the future to support the continent and the Western world, read United Nations in its struggle against ISIS. However, due to the belligerence of certain nations now involved in attacks in Syria and Iraq, ‘anti-war’ demonstrations have sprung up almost everywhere. Many are supported by members of the radical left parties. So far, Monsieur François Hollande, the French president has not requested Spanish military assistance, probably because he is aware of Spain’s present electoral campaign. The status quo, therefore is that the present government is holding its breath until after the elections.

So what about the elections then?

Now we come to an even more of a mystery as the polls with possible results keep changing on a daily basis. There is no doubt that Sr. Rajoy, because the way he is handling the emergency situation of terrorist threats has gained popularity. But so has the socialist leader Sr. Sanchez; having signed the pact against the threat. Nevertheless, Sr. Sanchez is also using his charm to boost his program of ‘changes’ should his party win the elections. One must remember that despite the security problem the campaign is now in full swing, the circus acts are out and the citizens I’m afraid are more confused than ever. No need to go into details but elections in most civilized democratic countries follow the same pattern; a sort of competition between candidates to see who can offer the best deal at the polling gates. But, as stated earlier we no longer have a bi-partisan system.

Enter the era of a possible coalition government, and boy; do we have a situation!

The socialists (PSOE) have vowed that they will never enter into partnership with the conservative (PP). But they’ve just signed an anti-terrorist pact with them, you may ask? Doesn’t count, that’s different. This is Spain. Because they are still behind in the polls, they have several alternatives that range from agreements to govern with ‘Podemos’ (Sr. Pablo Iglesias keeps jumping from imposing Marxist ideologies to a sort Social-democrat one), ‘IU’ (United Left, communists), (a few ‘odd’ balls in the nationalist and republican camps) or, and this is a big ‘or’ a joint venture with ‘Ciudadans’. And here is where Sr. Albert Rivera is acting ‘coy’, sitting on the center fence watching how his party’s popularity continues to grow as a possible alternative and not showing his ‘Ace’ card until the voting is over. Although young, and certainly vigorous, apart from a few minor faux pas he appeals to the young intelligent and ‘unemployed’ younger generation.

So there it is in a nutshell. Barring an attack anything can happen on the 20th of December, ‘D’ day for the Spanish elections.

And the rest of the events during the month?

Well, we still have the Catalan independentism movement in full swing although the regional government has not been able to form a government and is therefore struggling with Sr. Artur Mas, who continues to fight for the leadership. It is still in a state of chaos including a new demand that has arisen and this time from the European Union. Spain has to present its budget for 2016 and there are some Euro 3000 million yet to be accounted for. Rajoy’s Finance Minister has issued an ultimatum that is quite simple. ‘Where is the money, Sr. Mas?’

Apart from the above, Spain’s economy continues to grow, unemployment keeps dropping and despite more and more ridiculous town council activities by some of the new mayors, including Doña Carmena in Madrid and Doña Colau in Barcelona life goes on.

14th Dec Update: My home town ‘lit’ up with the usual festivity lights and people are spending their ‘year’s’ savings on presents and friends. We're just short of a week before the elections and the polls continue to play 'poker' with the possible results. Nobody knows for sure how it will all pan out in the end. It is a complete nut house at the moment and even the journalists on both sides of the fence are baffled. It's all down to who goes to bed with whom. The 'real' key is Albert Rivera of 'Ciudadans' (Citizens) who continues to rise in the polls but has vowed that he will pact with no one unless he is made President. Podemos' Iglesias keeps changing his tune. Rajoy sticks to his guns and poor old Sanchez (PSOE) keeps 'blowing bubbles in the air'. Whatever happens, next year's Parliament is going to be a real chicken run with insults galore. I picture scenarios with punch ups like the one we've seen in Kiev. Too much riff-raff has invaded the political scene in Spain. Many wouldn't recognise a Picasso, or an Albeniz overture from a bloody hole in the ground. Rajoy and Sanchez are on TV 14th Dec in a sparring match. It should be interesting seeing as Islamic Terrorism has once again taken centre stage due to the attack in Kabul on the Spanish compound with two dead Spanish policemen. Rajoy was smart to sign the terrorist pact with the main parties a few days ago. Spot on! Finally, Venezuela's elections has also thrown a spanner in the works, especially for the Podemos lot, although Spaniards are taking it with a pinch of salt.

See you next month.    

© James G. Skinner. 14th December 2015.

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