Spain elections: the view from the edge of the precipice

Mariano Rajoy’s PP will win tomorrow’s general elections in Spain. The size of the majority it achieves will shape Spanish and Catalan politics for the next few years.

The prospect of seeing the PP in power again after 8 years is not a happy one. While I’m no fan of the PSOE (I think I called them ‘the very worst party in Spain’ at one point, though I can’t find a link), my suspicion is that before long many who loathe the Socialists will remember how much more they loathed the PP last time they governed.

In Barcelona, the general mood seems to be one of totally ignoring these elections. After a swing to the right in recent Catalan and city hall elections, most people here seem to be trying to avoid thinking about having the PP in government. My prediction is that the turnout will be very low.

It is once the PP take over government (in a few weeks’ time, according to Spanish electoral law) that the dread will really set in. This is a party running for office in a country on the verge of massive economic disaster which has failed to express any coherent economic policies whatsoever. Their posters include slogans like “Primero, el Empleo” (Jobs First) but their policies will doubtless be savage cuts and successive rounds of redundancies and privatisation.

At the same time, it looks increasingly possible that Spain could be forced into needing a bailout from the European Central Bank or the IMF. I say ‘forced’ because categorcially, this does not need to happen. The pressure being applied to successive European countries is organised, focused and has at its core the aim to destroy the Euro. Politically, I’m no great fan of the EU. But forcing Spain’s exit from the Euro along with other countries in 2012 could threaten the very existence of the EU. I’d rather try to make it better for people.

In Catalonia, there are already some hints that the PP might try to buy an end to the Linguistic Immersion education policy with a fairer share of tax revenues. CiU, craven demagogues that they are, may well go for this. I worry too that fascist groups like ‘Plataforma Per Catalunya’ (Catalan fascists whose electoral pamphlets are seemingly only published in Castilian Spanish), may win a seat or two.

Finally, I expect this PP government to be faced with huge protests and strikes. One of the many problems with a PSOE government pushing through neo-liberal policies was the failure of the unions to properly challenge them. Now that the PP will be in government, there will be more inclination on the part of unions and workers to fight back. The Indignats (which inspired the Occupy movement in the USA) will also probably fight back harder: I’ll bet that more than a few Indignats have voted PSOE in the past and will do again, but that basically none of them are PP supporters. Also, the harder left wing party Izquierda Unida might fare better at the polls this year than for the last decade or so: they may be able to use this to force a more left wing opposition.

So here we are on the edge of a precipice, you and me. We face the prospect of a government which will not have won on merit but by default, with no policies for saving Spain’s economy, but hopefully with broad opposition from a curiously revitalised left. People might not be interested in these elections but the next four years will be anything but boring.

7 thoughts on “Spain elections: the view from the edge of the precipice

  1. It’s been two years since I left Barcelona and it’s the same old story. Don’t you think that even without the current crisis the PP would win anyway? Zapatero has been pretty uninspiring, even alongside the sleazy aura of Rajoy and the long shadow of the mustachioed one, aka “Anser” (as his buddy GWB called him).

    1. Yes, I think the PP would be about to win anyway. But not with the likely absolute majority it’s looking at.

      Zapatero never lived up to anyone’s expectations. But some of his social policy is worth celebrating. I reckon most of it will remain intact.

  2. Hi. My husband and I are moving to Barcelona in a month for work and we don’t know much about Spain’s contemporary political landscape. I understand the different nationalities that exist and the cultural differences but I don’t quite get the platforms of the politicians or know what they’ve done (or failed to do) in the past. Can you recommend a book for us to read (preferably in English) about this topic?

  3. Hi Kiana. There aren’t a huge number of books that cover this topic. Giles Tremlett’s ‘Ghosts of Spain’ is often recommended but I found it rather shallow. It’s probably worth reading anyway for a bit of background.

    I have made a list of political parties here: – though it hasn’t been updated for a year or two, so there are some groups missing.

    Very briefly, the main parties are the Partido Popular (PP), a right-wing conservative party founded by former supported of the fascist dictatorship (it is not a fascist party itself, but it does have plenty of dinosaurs in its membership) and the Partido Socialista Obrera Española (PSOE), a centre-left party that has been around since the beginning of the 20th century (like all parties, banned during the dictatorship). To the left of the PSOE is Izquierda Unida (IU) which is a coalition of several groups, led by the communist party.

    In Catalonia, the dominant parties are Convergence i Unió (CiU), a sort of Christian democrat centre-right party dedicated to ‘Catalanism’, i.e. more rights for Catalonia; the Partit Socialista de Catalunya (PSC), a federated section of the PSOE; Inicitativa Catalunya Verts-Esquerra Unida i Alternativa (ICV-EUiA, but normally just called Iniciativa), a federated section of IU with a significant green part; and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a pro-independence party with centre-left social and economic policies.

    CiU are the most powerful party on Catalonia at the moment because they control the Generalitat (Catalan government) and Barcelona’s city hall. Up until recently, the PSC, Iniciativa and ERC maintained a left-wing tripartite coalition in both the Catalan and Barcelona governments called the Tripartit.

    CiU, as you might expect, plan to cut public expenditure during their time in government. The PP, who just won the Spanish elections, probably plan to do the same. But economic policy looks like it will be decided less and less by whoever governs in Madrid or Barcelona, and more by Brussels, Paris and Berlin.

    You’re arriving at what can only be called an interesting time for Spain. There could be tough times ahead. But we’ll be fine. Good luck with the move!

  4. I should add that some of the links in my blog roll over there >> are worth reading. I particularly recommend South of Watford, a blog from Madrid that does a good job of following the machinations of Spanish politicians.

  5. Actually Plataforma per Catalunya publish almost all their material in Catalan and their slogan is in Catalan “Primer els de casa” though they also have spanish translations. This is part of their tactic to try to apeal to a sentiment of catalan identity in combination with anti-inmigration and xenofobia.

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