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••• The International Writers Magazine: After the Elections in Spain

An Uncertain Future in Spain
• James Skinner (Our Vigo correspondent)
The Repercussions of Brexit and the Spanish Elections


This last week has seen two unprecedented political events in Europe that could be considered as a Tsunami followed by a Hurricane. After months of anticipation the United Kingdom finally held its proposed referendum – 23rd June - on whether to remain or exit the European club they had belonged to for over 40 years with a surprising result in favor of leaving. Better known as the ‘Brexit’ the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have decided that enough is enough from European bureaucrats and undesirable political shenanigans and have literally closed the door and thrown away the key. The effects are yet to come, could even take decades. This essay is mainly concerned with Spain so whatever reference is made to the UK result is related to the future consequences of this decision on one of its victims.

The other event referred to is the second round and equally volatile Spanish general elections that took place only three days after Brexit – 26th of June.  Quite a lot to assimilate for anyone, especially the British whoare either living or visiting Spain. Although the elections could be viewed by outsiders as a normal democratic event in any one of the European states, the Spanish one in particular, was poised, depending on the results to cause yet another upheaval on the continent, especially as its democratic system has only been in place since the end of the brutal dictatorship of Generalissimo Franco.  Depending on the results, the outcome was particularly vulnerable to a possible dramatic change that could have swung into the Communist camp and moved towards a Bolivarian, i.e., a Venezuela style revolution unseen in modern Europe.  It so happened and against all polls, this did not occur.  The present governing conservative party (PP) under the presidency of Mariano Rajoy not only came up trumps similar to the original elections on December 20th, 2015 but rose in number of parliamentary seats 137 - by an increase of 14 MPs.  Although the socialists (PSOE) lead by Pedro Sanchez, dropped 5 – from 90 to 85 – it was the formation of the communists (Podemos/Izquierda Unida) lead by Pablo Iglesias – 71 MPs - and Alberto Garzon that were hit as well as the ‘every-which-way’ party (Ciudadans) – 32 MPs - lead by young Albert Rivera.

How has all this come about, when the polls predicted an overwhelming swing of the extreme left to supersede the socialists and literally be in a position to ‘demand’ the presidency based on an all-out left wing alliance?

Well, there are various reasons that could be attributed to the outcome and most are based on the actual political characters and their performance in the build up to the day of reckoning.

Let us begin with Mariano Rajoy.

He is a career civil servant who understood the workings of the government machinery, entered politics during the Aznar (PP) government, continued as opposition leader during the socialist (PSOE) era of Rodriguez Zapatero and finally became president of the present government. His background experience was second to none.  However, he is not charismatic, has a speech impediment and concentrated on sorting out the country’s economic woes without realizing that the low end of the citizens were still living on the threshold of poverty.  Nevertheless, he stuck to his guns during election time with a single and solemn message. ‘It’s me or chaos!’  It worked.

Pedro Sanchez (PSOE)

Tall young, good looking, charming and appealing.  However, his message both before the first elections and during the second attempt were hollow with the same message. ‘We must oust the corrupt and inept conservative government and replace it with a modern and progressive one. Vote for the change.’  Pardon the pun, but this message never changed.  But probably what was more consistent in his approach was his personal animosity towards Rajoy.  On the other hand he tried his utmost to woo the rest of the left wing including Podemos and this tended to rattle the more moderate sector of his party as they thought he was playing with fire.  Hence the same result, thanks to the die-hard voters but unable to gain support from the socialist undecided.
*27.06.2016 Spain's Socialist Party has already rejected proposals to form a grand coalition with the Popular Party (PP)

Albert Rivera (Ciudadans)

Another young and charismatic figure whose program was very much of that of a center party.  Was against the split of Spain, i.e. against all the separatist movements in Catalonia – he is Catalan by the way – as well as others waiting in the wings.  Very much a state oriented player. Unfortunately he began to bounce between one party and the other with ambiguous statements although he also vowed never to deal personally with Sr. Rajoy.  (Although repeated, much of this antagonism is due to the numerous corruption scandals in the conservative party.)  He even stated publicly that Sr. Rajoy should be replaced by another member of the conservative party.  ‘I’ll then do business with the PP.’ he would state over and over again.

Pablo Iglesias (Podemos).

Finally we come to the most intelligent member of the whole political scenario.  Doctor in Political Science, he is an excellent public speaker, endless campaigner in chat shows, media and domination of mass communication systems -  (Facebook, Twitter and others).  He rose from the ashes of the ‘Indignant’ movement two years ago to become one of the most powerful political parties appealing to the masses with definite communist programs.  His political manifesto of 393 sections covered practically every aspect of a country’s institutions and establishments.  A real ‘wish list’ that could appeal to every member of society.  He made one mistake. He suddenly changed his tactics and said that he was a social democrat thus renouncing, although not mentioning it, his basic revolutionary attempt at conquering the power of the country.  This caused him to lose support from the communist sector of the voters.

So what now? A good question.

Rajoy, apart from a speech full of thanks and offer of a possible alliance with his arch rival Pedro Sanchez to form a coalition ‘State’ government is probably off to a short break and relax in his native Galicia.  The rest are still licking their wounds.

We now have to wait until the 19th of July when we assume the parties have decided or not on what route to take.  One thing is certain.  Rajoy will not change his stance and feels that it is up to the others to come to terms with him.

Now we have the downside to all this election hoopla that reverts back to the Brexit situation. Tourism!

The pound is and continues to drop against the Euro.  The greatest number of foreign tourists that visit Spain are from the UK.  Their purchasing power during the holidays will have dropped by 20%.  Apart from tourists there are approximately 700,000 British citizens from all walks of life – pensioners, businessmen, shop keepers, to name a few - that live in Spain and they will not only caught by the slump in the pound but will be thinking twice about remaining in Spain.  Among many of their fears is the loss of public health services as they will no longer benefit as European Community citizens.

This is only the tip of the iceberg and although there is a two year moratorium before the final link is severed the panic button will soon be pushed to decide whether to stay, ask for Spanish nationality or catch the next Ryanair flight back to the UK.

This, among other knock on Brexit effects, could upset the Spanish economic recovery that began two years ago.  Pity!

Will keep an update should there be any further developments on both Brexit and the political situation in Spain.  

© James G. Skinner. June 27th 2016.

Second Chance in Spain
James Skinner

Not since the end of the Franco dictatorship and the introduction of democracy 40 years ago has this country been faced with a new and dramatically uncertain future.
Can the PP hang on to power?

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