The International Writers Magazine:Politics in Modern Spain
A Nasty Declaration
James Skinner on the electoral plight of Spain
However often you punch out the numbers, the sums just don’t add up
Pontevedra is the second largest city and capital of the province of the same name in the autonomous region of Galicia. Its population is just over eighty thousand and is some twenty miles away from Vigo, my home town. Apart from housing part of the large Galician fishing fleet of the Northwest of Spain, its major industry, it also allowed the construction sixty years ago of ENCE, one of the largest pulp paper factories in Europe with a turnover of over 300M Euro (2015 figures) employing directly more than eight hundred workers with another five thousand subsidiary jobs. The major drawback is that its various chimneys are consistently belching out white and smelly smoke. Although it is situated on the outskirts of the city it still continues to annoy most of the population, although there is no environmental nor health threat as the factory was declared toxic free years ago. Nevertheless the bitching continues. The contract renewal was up recently and the present, although acting government, renewed the land lease for further sixty years. The trouble is that the President, Sr. Mariano Rajoy’s home town happens to be this city and the local town council governed by his political enemies, the Galician nationalists (BNG) in coalition with the socialists (PSdeG) have suddenly declared Sr. Rajoy ‘persona non grata’. Although the measure has been condemned as ‘ridiculous’, ‘childish’ and even ‘anti-democratic’, it nevertheless adds another blow to his political standing hit by the continuing political and corruption scandals of his party.
It was reported in all the national media.
Meanwhile, as reported in February’s essay the players of the different parties that have achieved a certain number of parliamentary seats, continue to meet and discuss all kinds of possible liaisons to form some sort of an inevitable coalition government. The daily meetings are endless and have almost become monotonous because, as one journalist puts it, ‘however often you punch out the numbers, the sums just don’t add up.’ The magic sum is a total of 163 MP’s that would allow the formation of a government. However, because of the extreme antagonism between the conservative party (PP) still in power and the socialists (PSOE), especially the two leaders Sr. Rajoy (PP) and Sr. Sanchez (PSOE) any possible agreement between these two has long gone. It is in fact on the border of personal hatred between the two candidates.
Strange attempts, however are being made. A recent agreement that sounds more like a pledge to change the nation between two strange bedfellows, the left wing socialists (Sr. Sanchez) and the ‘center-whichever-way’ Ciudadans (Sr. Albert Rivera) has caused a rumpus as between them they only add up to 130 MPs and the document is deemed to be worthless. Extreme left wing leader of Podemos (We Can. Sr. Pablo Iglesias) blew his top and accused them of moving over to the right wing which is incorrect as the document contains a great deal of extra social benefits as well as turning the present government’s and Brussels’ reforms on their head. He does have a point though, because, to add insult to injury Sr. Rivera has implied that the only way their agreed coalition would work would be for the Conservatives (PP) to abstain to which Sr. Rajoy and his party, have told both of them to go to hell.
I’ll leave it here because to elaborate on the details of the above would be like trying to sort out the exit from Hampton Court Maze. Suffice to add that Sr. Rajoy said in a recent meeting with British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, that he predicts new elections in June as there is no way that the mess, as it is at the moment will be sorted out.
Let’s move over to the economy.
The bright side is that despite all the crazy political shenanigans going on at the moment at least the 2016 budget was approved before the elections. This means that the overall ‘kitty’ for this year is available to continue with the maintenance, for use of a better word, of the country. Most public works will continue, civil servants’ salaries are guaranteed and the social services, education and health will be protected. However, a great deal of new investment programs, some from overseas are on hold until a political light at the end of a tunnel of a new government is seen. It is clear that if a miracle occurs and a coalition of a ‘State’ government, i.e. Socialists (PSOE), Conservatives (PP) and ‘center-whichever-way’ (Ciudadans) is agreed chances are that the country will continue down the path of recovery, as it has been over the past couple of years. My prediction though, is that this would only be achieved if both Sr. Rajoy and Sr. Sanchez stepped down and new players entered the arena to face the music.
If the opposite takes place and the socialists (PSOE) allow Sr. Sanchez to jump into bed with all the left wing crowd which include, as I have stated so many times the communists, nationalists and republicans the economy will go for a burton and the outside financial institutes will step in to sort out the ensuing chaos. By the way, according to the IMF, Spain’s economy grew by 3% in 2015.
The country has many other problems that are just as serious as the political section. Independence movements are in full swing in Catalonia, there seems to be nothing stopping them whilst many of the remaining autonomous regions (Basque Country, Galicia, Valencia and the Balearics) are preparing their own swords to battle for the same.
A great deal of new corruption scandals appear on a daily basis. There are hundreds, and of various types and sizes that include major and minor violations. They are overwhelming the courts and keeping the Civil Guards busy as the latter continue to burst into offices and premises of the culprits filling crates of evidence to present before the judges.
One final prediction. Although there is a major battle ensuing between the socialists and the conservatives to govern the nation, the real political groundwork of a strong left wing element in the country was set during municipal and regional elections last May when Podemos and the PSOE won, joined forces and signed a sort of ‘blood oath’ in most of the major cities, including Madrid and Barcelona and several of the key autonomous regions such as Valencia and Galicia.
I’ll leave it here as the situation is ‘changing by the hour’. Next month could present a new and different panorama. In fact the coming week or two could be crucial. One never knows!
I've been reporting on what is going to happen in Spain (new government yet to be determined) which is just as important. New elections are now envisaged on June 26, 3 days after the Brexit referendum. When I say important is because Spain, at this moment in time is liable to 'explode' and the rest of the EU will suddenly awaken to the disastrous situation that this country is in. The international press, including UK, skim over the 'tip of the iceberg' without realising all the ice below. The new party of 'Podemos' (We Can) showed its colours in the parliamentary debates this past week to try to form a coalition government as a REVOLUTIONARY HUGO CHAVEZ (VENEZUELA) STYLE ideology that is set to blow up the country. Am I exaggerating you may ask? Hell no! They already control not only the city of Madrid and Barcelona but many others as well as some of (indirectly) the autonomous regions such as Valencia, Galicia, the Basque country and a few others. What ever happens during the 2nd round of elections, they have over 60 representatives in the present parliament to literally turn it on its head. As they say: 'Watch this space'. Personally, I'm all for (now) the UK getting the hell out of this European future mess.
14th March Update
Latest polls are conservatives (PP) steady, every-which-way (Ciudadans) on the rise, Socialists (PSOE) steady and Podemos plummeting. Another section of polls, 60% want a coalition between PP, PSOE and Ciudadans that would today reach suffice to have a majority in Parliament and this avoid new elections. Anyway, deadline is 2 May to reach some sort of agreement. Most 'intelligent' media say that Rajoy should step down although they admit that overall he has done a good job in rescuing 'part' of the economy. Nevertheless, this still leaves Spain with an uncertain future due to the overwhelming success of Podemos in the local (town council) and some vital autonomous region elections.
© James G. Skinner. March 14th 2016.
The Moment of Truth in Spain
One half, that back socialist Sr. Sanchez are willing to strike a deal with almost everyone on the left ... the other half are dead against.
James Skinner is the author of several novels on Spanish and South American politics
The Galician Parallax by James G Skinner
Published by Troubador