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••• The International Writers Magazine: From our Spanish Correspondent

A chance to form a Government at last in Spain?
• James Skinner
Voters abandon the tradional left


Sept 27th Update: The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.' Eliza Doolittle in 'My fair lady' finally learns how to speak proper English. However the majority of rainfall is not 'on' the plain but here in Galicia where regional elections have just been held. They could consolidate Sr. Mariano Rajoy, the present conservative government president's objective, to continue to safeguard the future economy of Spain.

Alberto Feijoo, of the same party has won an overwhelming majority victory to maintain the Presidency of the autonomous region. Across the north of the country and in the Basque country similar elections took place and once again the 'good guys' won although not with a majority vote. Sr. Iñigo Urkullu, a good Basque name of the right wing nationalist party (PNV) can now negotiate a coalition government with the conservatives (PP) under Sr. Alfonso Alonso, who, despite only 9 seats will be able to form the government. Meanwhile the Socialist Party in both regions took a real battering losing votes to Bildu (the ETA arm) in the Basque country and Marea (the ultra nationalist and Podemos style) party in Galicia. Now, the '64 thousand dollar' question is what effect will this have on the stalemate of the present Spanish government that rules over all of them. The key will be in the Socialist Party still under the leadership of Sr. Pedro Sanchez. Its a bit like the song, 'its now or never' whether the party's main body kicks him out and tries to regroup to allow the Conservatives to govern or will they go down the usual road of 'No means No' that would spell the end of the party's future.' Leave it till next month to see which way the left wing, they are all in a mess, jumps after this clear message of 'let sleeping dogs lie and get on with cleaning up the country.' By the way, the Basque's disassociate themselves from the independence movement in Catalonia. Yet another good omen for the future.

Considering the political scenario of the world and Europe, the focus is mainly on other areas starting with the up and coming elections in the USA. Donald and Hilary are giving us a real showcase of real filthy and sometimes hilarious mudslinging, not to mention the seriousness of the eventual outcome never seen before in the history of the greatest power on earth. Brexit - not quite considered as an election, but almost - has also put the cat among the pigeons and although some of the initial hubris has died down the real show is about to begin. As Ms. May, the British Prime minister has mentioned, there are forthcoming elections in France and Germany that could add some spice to Britain’s eventual exit from the EU. 

Spain is now on its tenth month without a Government - does anyone care?

The country has had a real bumper year in tourism thanks to many of the Middle and Far Eastern countries that have suffered from a new wave of terrorism, not to forget those in France and Germany. Spain’s beaches, restaurants and hotels are full to the extent that the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau has had to ask for a cut back in foreigners – as an example she has prohibited many clandestine flat rentals - as the city cannot cope with the influx. Even my home patch, Galicia, thanks to extraordinary summer weather conditions has seen a jump of at least 15%. Have had to push my way to the counter of my favorite ‘tapas’ bar! But on the political front a very different panorama is present and ticking like a time bomb.

The summer holidays are almost over - schools don’t go back until the middle of September - and although most Spaniards are returning to their work desks or continuing to commiserate watching television as they count their dole income, politicians have not stopped plugging away at trying to sort out the mayhem of a hung parliament and a nonexistent full time government. In last month’s essay I explained the impasse that had occurred since the first round of elections in December, 2015 followed by a second on June 27th. Well, we’ve got nowhere since and although the present acting conservative (PP) President, Mariano Rajoy has announced - in an emotional but abstract speech in parliament yesterday - that he intends to ‘try’ to form a coalition government, the bets are now on as to whether he is genuine or just going through the motions to force the opposition to step back and let him get on with the running the country. Remember that on both occasions his party won the majority of votes.

The situation is complicated and not easy to condense in an essay of a couple of pages. One would have to go back and read at least a whole year of my past essays on Spain’s political evolution to understand how it has reached the point it has, taking into account the plethora of other problems that are affecting the country as a whole. We must never forget that Spain is a real mixture of cultural, historical - and other tourist attractions - that have converted it into a real hotbed of political differences and confrontations.

Let’s at least try! A Perspective

To start with and as I have written dozens of times, Spain is not a country but 17 different mini-nations each with their own president and parliament hence they tend to set their own rules when it comes to important sectors such as education and health. Then you have at least 5 of them with their own language, hence a plethora of nationalist parties that are more concerned with their region than the country as whole. This has led to dreadful acts such as ‘whistling’ when the National anthem is played at a football match or a Spanish flag is burned at some act where separatist’s movements are around.

Catalonia has been at the forefront for years, is one of the main culprits of this type of disorder and has gone to the extent of formally announcing a referendum - nationally illegal - next year to begin its own ‘exit’ from Spain. Nothing new one might say, but this time they are dead serious. Naturally, this has triggered similar movements in the Basque Country, Galicia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. President Rajoy said in this speech yesterday that his ‘future’ government intends to uphold the Constitution and this categorically includes the unity of the country. In fact, the Basque Country has now got many ex-ETA (the terrorist organization) terrorists as members of their own political party and in key government sectors. This has allowed one of the infamous leaders, Arnaldo Otegui, recently released from prison, who was originally charged of condoning and promoting terrorism that led to dozens of assassinations, to present himself as a candidate for the up and coming regional elections in September. This is yet another long and arduous story in its own right.  

Back to the main issue of the elections. In a nutshell this is the present set up.

From an optimistic viewpoint, this coming Friday could be a great day because we may have, at long last the possibility of ending eight months of an interim government. The agreement reached between Mariano Rajoy (PP) and the every-which-way party of Ciudadanos led by Albert Rivera, plus a Canary Island’s - own - coalition regional party will have added up to 170 parliamentary seats of a total of 176 that could be sufficient to kick off a government. However, the vindictive and ambitious Pedro Sanchez, leader of the socialists (PSOE) may upset the apple cart and will try to ‘boycott’ the agreement and set in motion yet another round - 3rd - of General Elections in December. The socialists, with 85 seats, would have to abstain to allow a government. The tragedy is that the agreement reached by Rajoy and Ribera more or less includes the majority of ‘changes’ that the socialists have been seeking over the past four years. Sr. Sanchez continues with his constant, ‘No means no’ that is beginning to sound hollow even within his own party. Most media, including left wing are tiring of his childish approach and are urging him to cease the rhetoric which amounts to a personal hate of Sr. Rajoy. Even The Financial Times has written an article imploring him to drop this nonsense and allow a government to be formed. The other alternative would be the formation of a National Front with every left wing, nationalist, communist and republican representation similar to the 30's of the last century. Nevertheless, if there is no deal at all, Spain would commence a spiral towards complete uncertainty thanks to not having a proper government for a whole year.

What would this imply and more important what would be the threatening consequences?

To start with Spain needs to approve next year’s budget, one of the many requirements demanded by the - nasty - European Union. Without a budget they cannot allow the 17 regions and the 8000 town councils to produce their own. Investment would also suffer, not to mention international fear that many ongoing major projects would be either paralyzed or even dropped. In other words, a financial meltdown. To cap it all, the European Union is holding a Damocles Sword of a 6000 Million Euro fine if Spain doesn’t sort out is deficit by the end of the year.

Still without a government. The socialists (PSOE) continue to block the formation of a coalition with the conservatives (PP) and the every-which-way Ciudadanos. A few events have taken place during the month but the crucial date is the 25th when the Basque Country and my patch Galicia hold their regional elections. It is a testing ground to see how much the conservatives (PP) have lost ground or continue to maintain a lead despite more negative cases of corruption that are emerging on a daily basis. The other crucial date is the 25th of October when Spain must present a 2017 budget. This can only be done if a government is finally formed. If this is not carried out then the EU will step in with their heavy fines and will have yet another headache to sort out after Brexit. Spotlight is now on this country's future economy as reports continue in the international media.

Will leave it there and add any further developments that may take place, especially if the whole set up is turned on its head for whatever unforeseen reason before the end of the month. Anything could happen.

© James G. Skinner. September 27th 2016.

Impasse in Madrid
James Skinner on poltical turmoil in Spain
- 08.30.16 update
Can the Spanish Government be formed today? Or face a third election on Christmas Day. Madrid is tense as the political divisions seem entrenched

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