No extreme right parties and other peculiarities of June Spanish elections
After six months without a government, Spaniards will be going back to the polls three days after Brexit. Another parliamentary monarchy like the UK, politically however, a number of peculiarities characterize Spain as compared with the rest of Europe.
- Saturday, 18 June 2016
Spain does not have extreme right parties as do France, Italy and Germany. The crises of the social democracy hit also Spain, but this is not benefiting him groupings like elsewhere in Europe, and the one of these new parties does not shy from defining itself as belonging to the left and being even social democratic if needed. Spanish voters became unfaithful as a desire for independence in some regions — Autonomías — has their vote go to one party or the other depending on the type of election or issue at stake. This too was conducive to the end of the traditional bi-party system, which became apparent with the December elections.
The Popular Party of Prime Minister at interim Mariano Rajoy leads in the polls with 29%, also thanks to the anomaly of an absence of an extreme right. The PP encloses a huge political area ranging from the extreme right, even the xenophobic and fascist one, to the center, where it borders with new centrist party Ciudadanos and the Socialist Party (PSOE).
The PP is thus the resort-to political space for conservatives, neo-liberals, traditionalist and centrist Catholics, the extreme right, and for those who fear the left, "chaos", unknown political solutions, movements, the Purple Party (Podemos), which is "supported by the Venezuelan regime", etc.
The PP campaign was relatively simple: insist on the fears among citizens, and hammer on the economic progress Spain made during Rajoy's governments, a "task that needs to be completed": 2 million jobs in 2014-2015 (but the center and the left lament their quality); avoiding bank bailouts (but for many whether this happened or not is a matter of terminology); carrying on reforms that brought about in Spain Europe's most dynamic growth rate.
The Popular Party stumbles though upon scandals of corruption, the second concern of Spanish citizens today. But Albert Rivera's Ciudadanos does not benefit from this dissatisfaction, because while moderate and centrist, nobody knows which alliances Ciudadanos intends to broker post-voting. An important point here is that Ciudadanos' seats will not be enough for the PP to form a government.
Another Spanish anomaly distorts the dynamics between the PP and its opposition. That is the distribution of voters in parties by age, a generation gap seen already in the December elections, the results of which made a government an impossible task. The average age of PP voters is 64 years, that of PSOE is 59, Ciudadanos' is 49 and Podemos' is 45.
In Spain, however, voters over-sixty are the most numerous group, and for this reason the PP is forecasted to win by a margin — 29% compared to 24-25% of its immediate follower, that is the alliance Podemos-United Left, called Unidos Podemos (Together we can, UP) that altered all scenarios.
To the left of the PSOE, UP could collect more votes than the algebraic sum of the two original groupings. According to polls, in some regions, like Navarre, their confluence will encourage racking up much higher numbers than expected.
Voilà the "sorpasso", as UP's overcoming the Socialist Party (24-25% of 21%) is called, in Italian. The PSOE is no longer convincing as being the only option to counter the center-right and right. UP could gather a much higher number of votes if voters who oppose PP's policies — austerity, corruption, diktats of the Troika, occupation of power, all UP's campaign points — decide to cast their vote for the grouping most likely to win.
To cutting the wings of the Socialists contributed also another tactic of Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos: he did not hesitate to define his alliance "the new space of social democracy" being "patriotic and multi-national" (i.e. respecting the regional, called here "national", independence feelings).
When asked how his allies in the left, including former Communist Party, felt about this terms, Iglesias replied candidly that Marx and Engels "were both social democrats" and that "being a social democrat in the XXI century implies acting in a completely redefined way." Iglesias is not just being rhetoric.
UP (Unidos Podemos), which aspires to become "the main alternative to a PP government", but will not gain an absolute majority, will need to negotiate some kind of pact with the "old social democracy", read PSOE, after six months of wearing off the Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez refusing to support a government lead by him.
The other Spanish anomaly that could help UP's sorpasso, if it will happen, is the strong feeling for independentism in many Autonomías. Several of the local alliances that include Podemos reassured their constituencies on its commitment to champion regional demands in Valencia, Galicia and the Basque Country, and a referendum in Catalonia.
"I'm here speaking to the Catalan nation (...) which we wish will not leave," said Iglesias under the Arco de Triunfo in Barcelona, pledging to build "a multinational" Spanish state. Nor PP nor PSOE nor Ciudadanos can step up to UP on this sensitive political issue, and this will become one of the first obstacles to hinder the formation of a new government upon awakening on Monday June 27.
Iglesias is doing everything he can to become a likely candidate for the government. He went as far as saying that his is "the political force [that represents] law, order and democracy". Malignantly some say he could even decide to wear a tie. To force Sanchez to support a government lead by him if the sorpasso happens, he is singing the praises of José Luis Zapatero, "the best president of our democracy", and a competitor figure to Sanchez.
Podemos is handing out "a helping hand to the PSOE without conditionalities," said the spokesman for the economy of Podemos, Nacho Álvarez. The alliances game just began.
For two European constitutional monarchies, the week of the 23rd and the 26th June will be decisive, and indeed the term perhaps minimizes its importance. Both have several characteristics in common: from their territorial system to their production model (and both have a large financial-banking sector), to having both Autonomías/Nations with marked historic cultural specificities.
Podemos even sent a member of its board to the UK to campaign in favor of the Stay camp, even if in its alliance the former Communist Party favors leaving the EU.
The outcome of the UK referendum will in any case have an impact on the Spanish elections, among other things, in case it pushed Scotland to new independence initiatives. Emotions will be running high this week in Europe, no doubt about it.