••• The International Writers Magazine: From our Spanish Correspondent
A preview of forthcoming attractions in Spain
James Skinner on political turmoil in Spain
30th August Update:
Today is the day that Rajoy announces in parliament his intent to form a government. He has come to an agreement with the every-which-way party of Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos) plus the Canary Islands right wing nationalists. They total 170 seats. He really needs 176 (only 6 more) but would be able to go ahead if the socialists (PSOE) under Pedro Sanchez 'abstain'. This gives him a minority vote but allows him to govern. All this will be announced tomorrow. It is a crucial moment for Spain because if there is no agreement (we'll know some days next month) because the socialists refuse to abstain and continue to say 'No' Spain will head for a 3rd round of elections in December (On Christmas Day). It will be a disaster not only for Spain but for Europe adding yet another spike into the EU's problems after Brexit.
** This is unless the Socialists decide to go for a National Front left wing coalition that would even be more disastrous. One journalist named it as a possible 'Frankenstein government'.
The negotiations and certain decisions that have been taken by the contending political parties that are jockeying for position, third time around, to form some sort of a government is reaching the final stages. It is a sort of now or never. Either they get their act together and start running the country as either a social democrat center coalition or a possible extreme left one with a multitude of parties or, the alternative that Spain would have to go for yet another general election. Will not go into the details of the seriousness of yet another delay. Will leave it for next month when more dust settles from the murky waters Spain has been navigating through over the past 9 months.
A great deal of horror stories have taken place in Europe, let alone the rest of the world. The various recent attacks that have occurred in Nice, France and Germany has left this dear continent reeling against the ropes. A stunned continent, already suffering from similar massacres in previous years is unable to cope with the aftermath. What has happened so far is that acting President, Mariano Rajoy (PP) and Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos) have come to some sort of an agreement - they total 170 seats and require 176 - but in order to form what both politicians call a Constitutional government - they require the Socialist Party (PSOE) that has 85 seats to abstain. So far, Pedro Sanchez, the leader continues to say ‘No’ to the deal. However, a date has been set by Mariano Rajoy confirming his intention to form a government anyway and will present it to King Felipe VI as per the articles of the Constitution. See what happens.
Two other important events will take place in September. Regional elections in Galicia, my patch and the Basque Country. Will leave it there except to remember the name of a controversial Basque politician called Arnaldo Otegi. Could cause yet another headache for the Spanish government, no matter who is in charge.’
Citizens, politicians, academics, clerics and simple ordinary law abiding human beings are so bewildered that everyone is asking the same question over and over again. What can be done? To add to the misery, the military coup in Turkey and the aftermath of Brexit is causing havoc amongst the European Union’s army of politicians from every color of the ideological rainbow and walks of life, all shouting, yelling and accusing each other of the circus that the whole continent has turned into. As reported in last month’s essay, there is enough media material on the whole shebang floating about in the stratosphere to fill the Library of Congress. As usual, I will revert to my reporting on this country that is obviously affected by world and European events. Yet seeing that Spain is still in a political limbo because of the incapacity of the political parties to form a government (As I go to press) anyone would think that what is happening outside its borders is just another picture book story.
So what is going on Spain?
I reported last month that a second round of elections would take place on the 17th of July after the failed 1st attempt in December 20th of last year. Well. It took place and guess what. A similar scenario occurred although this time round the governing conservative party (PP) with Sr. Mariano Rajoy at the helm again won more votes with a greater majority of seats, followed – barely – by the Socialists (PSOE) that managed to ‘pip’ the communist formation (Podemos/United Left) with Ciudadanos limping behind the front three. So what now?
Spain is back to square one. It’s like a game of musical chairs, except that they are all sitting without moving. King Felipe VI went through the same old swan song meeting with the major players plus a few of the minor parties that included all other denominations and chances are that we will be faced with yet another general election in November.
Meanwhile, two major concerns are looming on the horizon both national and international. Despite the pending outcome of who will be running the country, Catalonia continues down the path of a referendum for independence. They have set a date and are sticking to it. There are internal political problems within the autonomous region but the goal has not changed. The present government sticks to its guns behind the Spanish constitution that prohibits the break-up of Spain. Other regions are waiting in the wings such as the Basque Country, Galicia and now Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The possible change, however are the Communist lot (Podemos/IU), ‘tongue in cheek’, have hinted at permitting the citizens to hold a referendum. With Scotland as an example the suggestion is pending on the following:
We all know Scotland’s point of view and unsure of Northern Ireland but other effects across the channel are brewing, Spain in particular.
Tourism is booming because of terrorist attacks elsewhere and not to forget the recent coup attempt and subsequent clampdown in Turkey. However, the drop in the pound will be noticed with the forthcoming avalanche - or not - of British tourists who are the largest group of international tourists visiting this country. The other is the dual effect of Spanish citizens living in the UK and those Brits who live in Spain. There are several aspects to be concerned about. The first is the loss, eventually, of EU residence status that would automatically revert to an alien status requiring a visa, tourist or work permit. Take your pick. This has a further repercussion on Social Security benefits including health service. Brits living in Spain would most probably have to take out private medical insurance. What this has done is to trigger off many long standing residents to ‘think’ about acquiring Spanish nationality. The law, although strict, is pretty straightforward. Depending on the number of years one has been a resident a foreign citizen is permitted to apply. The procedure is extremely complicated, especially for non-Spanish speaking persons and could take up to 2 years. However, the downside is that the present government has recently issued a decree in 2015 that all non-Spanish speaking nationals wishing to become Spaniards will have to pass a series of extremely difficult tests that not only included the language but a thorough knowledge of the country. Questions like, ‘what is the museum in Bilbao called?’ or, ‘What is Penelope Cruz’s profession?’ are part of the exam. These were some of the easy ones! If Britain breaks off all ties of this nature, Brits would be no different to other countries without bi-lateral agreements on residence. The other fear is that Spaniards in UK could face similar threats. It’s all a long time away but the seeds of doubt have been sowed, including yours truly.
In fact, although 2 years away, this particular point is probably one of the most difficult that the now British Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May will be faced with in the future negotiations. We are talking about 27 different European States each with their own laws on residence despite the so called EU mandate of ‘free movement of persons’.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch it’s holiday time in Spain. The schools have broken up, most workers, both public and private are off for at least a month’s break. Motorways, roads, airports, hotels, tapas bars and beaches are full. This will carry on until the end of August. The increase of national holidaymakers has proved that the economy is beginning to come out of the doldrums. Apart from the ‘happy hours’, construction is also on the rise, housing prices are back to normal and the sale of cars is up.
All we need now is a continuing stable government. Fingers are crossed.
See you next month.
© James G. Skinner. August 2016.
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