Tag Archives: spain

Spanish liberals have everything to play for

The morning after the Spanish General election,  those of us who follow Spanish politics suffered from a sore head. The electorate gave no clear direction when the votes were counted last week, with the previous governing party winning first place, but with far fewer seats and votes and no viable combination of parties able to group together to form a stable government.

Those of us who  two weeks ago  had dreamed that Spain’s new centrist party, Ciudadanos, were about to break the mould and become, if not a governing party, at least the kingmakers, can be forgiven for being disappointed with the result. But put into perspective, a party that four years ago did not exist on a national level, with no infrastructure and a single issue policy platform, has burst onto the scene with 40 deputies in Congress, gaining 14 per cent of the vote.

There will now follow weeks of horse trading to try to build a government out of such a fractured parliament. Rajoy, as ever a poor imitation of Angela Merkel, initially seemed to open the door to a grand coalition with the Socialists, with his call for a stable government with a majority. A pact between the two largest parties is the only combination that could provide a majority government without an unwieldy coalition of small parties. But such a coalition would surely undermine the raison d’etre of the Socialist Party as an anti-Conservative force.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 4 Comments

What the Liberal Democrats should learn from Ciudadanos

These past two weeks have taken me back to being a 16 year old first starting to watch election debates in the UK. I’ve watched so many Spanish debates I know the campaign messages off by heart, and, being a young person, I’m up to date with all the Twitter memes. A (comparatively) young centrist leader, Albert Rivera, branded as a kingmaker, and constantly questioned about who he’ll seek to work with after the elections can’t help but be compared to Nick Clegg, especially when considered to be “the sexiest candidate in the campaign according to all the polls.”, and when the PSOE is talking about a vote for anyone else as a vote for the PP. It’s all oddly familiar. That comparison to Britain has backed Rivera into a corner, to an extent – the narrative over the last few weeks has been that Ciudadanos won’t enter into a coalition unless they are the party leading it.

However, the comparisons with 2010 extend further – there has been a serious drop in C’s support over the past few days, and today’s headline is that they will remain kingmakers but get far less seats than expected. Looking at the Andorran fruit markets (a cipher for polling, which cannot be published in the five days before the election) gave me the same feeling of shock as seeing the exit polls in the UK election. We’ll see what happens – I’ve already turned down a bet on the election result as a fool’s errand this morning – but chances are that it won’t be possible to live up to the hype.

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Postcard from Madrid: Podemos has done up its top button, now it needs to put on a tie

Jeremy Corbyn has, since being elected Leader of the Opposition, experienced a crisis in reconciling his radical politics with the wider want of the general public. He’s been reluctant to dissociate himself from perceived radicals such as the Stop the War Coalition (just as Podemos have with the likes of Syriza and President of Ecuador Raffael Correa), has refused an invitation to the CBI conference (citing prior engagements, despite him being invited the day he was elected party leader), has had to relent to party pressure on a free vote on Syria bombing and so on and so forth.

He has repeatedly been asked to compromise on his radical politics, and he has had great difficult in doing so.
Podemos need to better prepare themselves for opposition, by being able to answer the difficult questions that Corbyn has struggled with. Four years of a PP and Ciudadanos government poses a tremendous opportunity for Podemos to become Spain´s second party, however in order to do so they need to tweak their approach, without losing the impassioned support that they’ve already acquired.

They’ve already embarked on this journey by abandoning two of the more radical proposals from their European elections manifesto, as well as reassessing a debating system which gives the same worth to a proposal from one individual member as one from a “circle” of 30 or 50 people.

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged and | 19 Comments

Postcard from Madrid: Spanish forgiveness presents unique opportunity for Podemos

I have noticed during my time in Spain, and research prior, that equivocation and outright policy reversals are not met with the same scorn and derision by the media and general public here that they are in UK politics.

Mariano Rajoy, Pedro Sanchez and Pablo Iglesias have all, at some point in recent years, reneged, retracted, backtracked or outright refuted stances or statements they once held or pronounced, with very little cost to their wider popularity. In the United Kingdom at least, this is a cardinal sin; pure sacrilege. An example of how overt Spanish politicians are when backpedalling can be seen in Rajoy´s response to hiking VAT in 2012 after pledging not to, “I said I would lower taxes and I am raising them. I haven´t changed my way of thinking but circumstances have changed”. Who, in the run up to this year´s election, has mentioned this as a reason for rebuke against Rajoy?

The Liberal Democrats suffered a complete collapse partly because of such a manoeuvre (losing 48 seats in the 2015 UK general election), whilst just recently John McDonnell and then David Cameron were the subjects of much ridicule for making statements which they then failed to act upon (McDonnell’s U-turn on George Osbourne´s fiscal charter proposal, and Cameron failing to come to a decision on Heathrow by the end of this year). There’s been no such reprimand for Iglesias and his abandoning of “basic universal income” and a “citizen’s audit of Spanish public debt” – both policies he included in his European election manifesto, but which are absent from this year’s, “An economic plan for the people”. This is great news for him, as he’s being granted license to remould his and his party’s image.

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Postcard from Barcelona: The people’s concerns remain unanswered

Arc de Triomf (Barcelona)Barcelona have never been particularly enthused by the right wing Partido Popular – although Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy´s party is still expected to pick up three or four seats – however it´s no longer just them that a vast majority of the population now rally against. Mayor of Barcelona and En Comu Podem member, Ada Colau, expands her anti-´la casta´ (the establishment) rhetoric to include not just PP and the socialist PSOE, but also Convergencia and Ciudadanos.

“I’ve never seen PP, PSOE, Ciudadanos or Convergencia in a protest to stop evictions, defend healthcare or protect employment rights,” she said during a recent rally. The loudest cheer she received during this speech was in response to her statement that “PP is a party that really doesn’t care about human life”, a statement that, based on their presence in Catalonia, PP would be hard-pressed to refute.

Colau was one of the founders, and now chief spokesperson for, the PAH, who are a citizen´s movement focused on the right to housing. PAH yesterday exemplified Colau´s non-discriminatory rhetoric against all opposing political parties by plastering the posters of PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos in Barcelona with stickers accusing them of intending to vote against their ´5 demands´ (which include non-recourse debt, affordable rent, stop evictions, social housing and right to utilities). PAH are just one of many ´mareas´ (tides) spawned by the Indignados movement of May 15th 2011.

Stickered billboards

Another example of the disaffected tides of unhappy citizens that Rajoy has had to confront is ´Juventud Sin Futuro´ (Youth Without Future) – 260,000 people aged between 16 and 30 left Spain to find work abroad in 2012. Unemployment in Spain has indeed decreased from its peak of 27 per cent in 2013 by roughly six points, however the situation remains grave. 

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Spain’s historic liberal opportunity

Albert_Rivera_-_02Buckling under the weight of economic stagnation, endemic corruption and institutional failure, the old duopoly in Spanish politics of the right-leaning Popular Party (PP) and centre-left Socialists is finally breaking down. With just days to go until the general election on 20 December, voters look to be splitting four ways. On the hard left, Podemos has profited from the frustrations of many, but in the centre ground Ciudadanos (C’s) offers new hope for liberal minded voters.

Liberalism tends to be a dirty word in Spain. The country has had precious few popular liberal movements in its history and the label tends to be hijacked by the right, meaning many Spaniards equate the term with a “one rule for them, one for us” mentality, or corporate cronyism.

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Opinion: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez drops a few truth bombs on political parties

I’m currently studying abroad in Salamanca, where, as in the rest of the country, there are municipal elections on 24th May. (Yes, polling day is on a Sunday.) My bedroom floor is covered in a variety of different party propaganda (yes, that is the word they use in Spain for it) that I’ve gathered for academic reasons, obviously.

So, I was really excited to read Miriam’s article in El País recently. It most certainly did not disappoint – if you want a lesson in how to drop truth bombs on political parties, look no further.

Just to give a little bit of context – the Partido Popular is currently governing. It’s got “Working, Making, Growing” posters up around half the city, shouting from the rooftops about its economic success. Miriam notes that although progress has been made, it’s rather odd to be making that a central campaign plank while overall unemployment rests around 20% and youth unemployment around 50%.

She also attacks them for their failure to confront the ‘crisis of values’ facing the Spanish political system, talking of a ‘radical disconnect between the political class and citizens.’ She refers to Chris Huhne briefly, stating that the levels of corruption in the Spanish system could never occur in a country where a politician can go to jail for exchanging points on their driving licence.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 22 Comments
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