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The International Writers Magazine:From our Spanish Correspondent

Democracy at Stake in Spain
• James Skinner
Chaos Beckons in Turbulent Spain


It may sound a harsh statement but following the results of the general elections held last month, the continuing catastrophic situation in Catalonia’s own regional elections - both are unable to form governments - and the latter’s continued thrive towards independence that could spark off similar reactions in the Basque Country, Galicia, Valencia and who knows where else, Spain is heading towards total political chaos. There are other added reasons that should be added to this statement such as the previous town council and certain autonomous regional elections that took place in May, 2015 and set the stage for what is now taking place at state level.  

The results were well published nationally and internationally with four parties in the possible driving seat and a plethora of others made up of communists, nationalists, republicans and anti-capitalists. The Conservative (PP) obtained the largest number of parliamentary seats, followed by the Socialists (PSOE) and the 2 new incumbents, Podemos (We can) and Ciudadans (Citizens), in that order.   

Despite gaining the majority of votes why has the present government of Sr. Mariano Rajoy (PP) who won an overwhelming majority victory in December 2011 become so unpopular, and caused such a radical change in the political structure of the country over such a short period of time, i.e. 4 years? I confess that I had to carry out a certain degree of extra research in my previous essays in Hackwriters on Spain. Alas, I found part of the answer in the most comprehensive one Rescue at last August 8th, 2012, six months into the then new government’s term of office. The state of affairs during the previous 8 years led by the socialists of Sr. Rodriguez Zapatero had left the country on the verge of bankruptcy, ready to allow the international financial institutions known as the ‘Troika’ (IMF, European Central Bank and EU Commission) to step in and remedy the situation. What Sr. Rajoy did was take the bull by the horns and literally tear the country’s economic situation apart by sorting out the banking mess and imposing extremely harsh measures applauded by the outside world but never really accepted by a great deal of the Spanish citizens. The tragedy was that the first two years were still carrying the ‘overflow’ of the ZP catastrophe and the signs of a recovery were never really achieved until around 2013. It was too late. The seeds of discontent had already been sown before they even had a chance to implement the changes when an upstart movement called the 15M took to the streets of Madrid in May, 2011 with a simple slogan, ‘enough is enough’ (originally referring to ZP’s failure). Hence one of the new incumbent parties (Podemos) lead by a radical Marxist called Pablo Iglesias began to brew in the background and burst out into the open. The date was January 2014.

But why is Spain today faced with such a tremendous upheaval with radical changes in its political structure, despite the fact that Rajoy’s government was able to at least stop the rot and begin to turn the tide by 2015 with real positive economic results?  

There is no easy answer. Let us at least have a stab at what has happened and what is likely to take place during the next year which is crucial for this country as well as the EU, especially the Eurozone. I have purposefully avoided any mention of all the other events that are taking place around the world that will obviously have an ‘extra’ effect on Spain’s future government, whatever it may turn out to be.

To begin with, Sr. Rajoy’s government made several grave mistakes when he took office. He avoided taking issue on promised reforms especially the abortion law and other non-economic ‘leftovers’ of the ZP government and concentrated solely on the economic situation. He lost some support from within his own party. Another mistake was not informing the country that the government’s efforts would take time and above all not communicating with the lower echelon of society that was still being hurt due to the general crisis such as unemployment support - the dole - running out or suffering from foreclosure on property due to mortgage non-payments. His reforms were nowhere near to assisting hundreds of thousands in desperate need. Street beggars continued to proliferate. He also failed to recognize the new method of presenting a political image by the leaders of Podemos who were literally taking over the media, especially television chat shows and the new venue of communication such as Facebook and Twitter. The final straw was the constant attack by all the opposition of the various corruption scandals that had and were still affecting the Party as well as the Government. In the final debate between his main opponent, Sr. Pedro Sanchez (PSOE), whereby the socialist leader literally called him a corrupt person, none of the main issues were even debated. The whole event was a slinging match between the two. By the time he realized his mistakes it was again, too late.

So much for the pros and cons of the governing party. What about the rest?       

Well, the socialist party (PSOE) is in an even worse situation. If we revert back to May, 2015, and as reported in many of my previous essays, when municipal and certain autonomous regions carried out elections, the results in many cases were biased towards the left-wing that included an array of different political parties, but many carrying the ‘banner’ of the Podemos party. So what did they do? In order to oust many of the conservative (PP) strongholds they joined forces with them and without realizing it handed over power to Sr. Pablo Iglesias’ lot. Cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela to give example plus autonomous regions like Valencia are now under the control of the ultra-left wing party.

Come general election time, despite coming second, the socialists took the worst hammering in the history of the party. At this moment they have an internal conflict between the leader Sr. Pedro Sanchez and Sra. Susana Diez, the Andalusian president who is totally against any pacts with the Podemos parties.

Why you may ask?

Despite the swing to the ultra-left and nationalist camps, Sr. Pablo Iglesias is of the opinion that Catalonia and other regions should have the right to decide their own future; hence he is ‘hinting’ at the possibility of a series of referendums for the citizens of each region. This could ultimately cause the breakup of Spain as a nation.

Now we face the present uncertainty on two fronts.

First of all Catalonia that is yet to form a regional government. The reason is Sr. Artur Mas’ insistence in being voted in as the continuing President, but that has been rejected by the key anti-capitalist party CUP that refuses to give him the vote. It is extremely complicated and would require a complete new essay. Suffice to say that the region will now have to hold new elections whilst still pushing ahead with its plea for independence.

As far as Spain is concerned, the situation, ironically is similar. If we revert to the election results, not one party or coalition between left and right would be able to form a government because the sums - totals - just don’t add up to sufficient majority. This means that as from the 7th of January, after the last of the Spanish holidays (Reyes) all new MP’s will take their seats in the Parliament and the shouting matches will begin as to who is to bed with whom. Several scenarios have been bounced about between the conservatives (PP) and Ciudadans or socialists (PSOE), Podemos and the plethora of smaller left wingers. Again a possible non-starter because of the socialist spilt mentioned above. What this boils down to is that for the next few months Spain will be without a new government and will possible end up with new elections. In the interim, Sr. Rajoy continues as ‘acting’ president but without any powers to pass any new legislation. Ah! And stock markets will hold their breath whilst a great deal of needed foreign investment will be placed on hold. For months!

Ironically, King Felipe VI, thanks to the new Constitution may have the last word. He has the ‘power’ to ‘recommend’ the right choice. This chapter is yet to be presented.

Hope you can see through the above maze as I confirm once again. Spain is still in a political mess and anything can still happen.

See you next month.     

© James G. Skinner. January 6th - 2016.

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