What’s going on in Andalusia

Andalusia is to the PSOE as Scotland was to the Labour Party: an area where they could take people’s votes for granted to help them waltz into power at the national level. The recent elections, brought forward from March, meant they could use the region as a litmus test for future national elections and seek to take advantage of Pedro Sánchez’s honeymoon period after the vote of no confidence in July.

The PSOE has governed Andalusia since 1980. Many Lib Dems in Labour and Tory fiefdoms will be well aware of what that length of time in power does to a party, and there have been ongoing corruption cases. This resulted in Ciudadanos breaking their agreement with the PSOE, as sufficient advances had not been made on rebuilding people’s confidence in Andalusian democracy. At the time of the last elections in 2015, the PSOE got 47 seats and Ciudadanos 9, with the majority being 55.

Which brings us, more or less, to where we are at the moment, with a spectacular increase in seats for Ciudadanos from 9 to 21. Numerically, the PSOE remains the largest party, but it’s resoundingly clear that it’s time for a change in Andalusia. Despite Susana Díaz’s scaremongering about the right-wing bogeyman coming to destroy the region, and Podemos’s attempts to classify the entire centre-right as being ideologically identical to fascism, Ciudadanos’s candidate Juan Marín ruled out any kind of pact with Vox. This is because, clearly, the kind of Macron-style European liberalism Ciudadanos leads on in ALDE is the polar opposite of Abascal and Le Pen’s politics.

The reality of the situation is that the PSOE and Podemos have fed the fire of right-wing populism in Spain, which was an incredibly marginal force until very recently. When you try to collapse politics into good and evil, when nobody to the right of Podemos could possibly have positive motives for Spain, it worsens what is already incredibly serious polarisation.

It’s also impossible to analyse the results in Andalusia without looking at Sánchez’s performance on the national level. If people are moving from the PSOE to Ciudadanos, it’s a safe bet that they’re uncomfortable with his cooperation with the far-left and the nationalists – bearing in mind that Quim Torra has a history of anti-Spanish comments.

The main thing we can learn from Andalusia is that extremism begets extremism, and comparing moderate, centrist parties to extreme right-wing ones undermines the seriousness of the threat they pose. Banalising fascism is a dangerous game to play, and we can only hope that Spain’s moderate liberals play a key role in returning the far-left and far-right to the obscurity they deserve.

* Hannah Bettsworth is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Council for Europe, and the Liberal Democrat Federal International Relations Committee. Outside of politics, she works in European affairs consultancy on health policy.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • Bernard Aris 18th Dec '18 - 4:12pm

    Incredible how much Ciudadános has scored , advanced in what was indeed a rock-solid bulwark of the PSOE.

    The quoted El Pais table is as follows:

    Partij 2015 2019
    PSOE (socialist) 47 zet. 33 zet.
    PP (conservative) 33 26
    Ciudadános (Soclib) 9 21
    Adelante Andalusia 5 17
    Vox (fascist) 0 12

    Adelante Andalusia = combination of Podenmos (new hard-left) & IU (old hard-left).

  • chris moore 18th Dec '18 - 4:51pm

    I would question your identification of Vox as fascist.

    They are rather dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries, with no pretensions to social reform of the type espoused by classical fascists.

    Unlike many other hard right-wing parties in Europe, they don’t want to leave Europe.

  • Colin Paine 18th Dec '18 - 5:33pm

    I spend a fair bit of time in the region and have certainly come across the “anyone who isn’t a socialist is a fascist” line. It’s interesting that it us possible to be centre/left in the UK and believe in the Union, but in Spain an anti-separatist position is often seen as nationalist/right. We should support Cs as they try to break the mould!

  • I would question the description of Ciudadanos as “liberals”. This is an economically conservative Spanish nationalist movement with a few token socially liberal positions. It opposes the right of Euskal Herria and Catalonia to hold referenda on independence, and it has spent most of its short life propping up the corrupt right-wing PP government of Mariano Rajoy. Indeed, in Catalonia Ciudadanos acts as a substitute for the PP. In Euskal Herria its support barely registers.

    I would also question the description of Emmanuel Macron as a “liberal”. This is a guy who wants to force people to join the army. He is no kind of liberal. When the state goads the French too far, they take to the streets, and with some success as we have seen in the past week.

  • chris moore 19th Dec '18 - 1:35pm

    Hi Sessenco,
    Ciudadanos, whilst liberals, with a clear agenda of economic and social modernisation, are to the right of the Lib Dems.

    In terms of their opposition to more autonomy for the regions, they hark back to the modernising Spanish liberal tradition of the 19th century. To modernise, it was necessary to overcome localism – the power of the church and the aristocracy to impede change.

    I have sympathy with their reforming programme, but am repelled by their intransigence on letting people vote on more autonomy. (I live in Euskal Herria).

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