Lessons From Spanish Election

Photo Source: npr.org

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront


The stage, for the revival of socialism, in Europe, seems set, as Spain’s socialists, Partido Socialista Obrero Españolhave gained power, in the country. 

As Spain’s socialist parties have won more than 32.8 per cent of the vote, it may be the biggest vote, for the socialists, in the region, apart from the Portuguese socialists. 



A government deal, is in the offing, after an inconclusive result, lingering around for a month, or so.


After a delay, Spain’s King Felipe VI has tasked the elect, Pedro Sanchez, with forming of a new government. His party had won one hundred twenty-three seats, out of three hundred fifty seats. The formation of the government will be a hard exercise, as a divisive mandate, and its reconciliation, among various political parties, will be an arduous task, in the weeks to come.

As a coalition government will most likely rule Spain, it is but natural, a certain disillusionment of Spaniards will remain there. It is because the coalition government, in general, are often loathed, for time-consuming decision making, on important public matters, often prioritising regional interests, over national interests, to name a few. Neighbouring Italy, some time back, too, had voted for a regime change, but no political party had got a clear mandate, like in the Spanish general election, despite Italians, voting for an emerging right-wing, anti-globalisation, influx.


This election has given Partido Popular their biggest blow, since 2014. On a Guardian article, AFP reported in Madrid, that despite all horse-trading manoeuvres, Sanchez, now, might become the new prime minister. The conservative Partido Popular, centre right Ciudadanos (Citizens), and far right Vox, have decided to stay in the opposition.


What is working in favour of Sanchez, and his party, Partido Socialista Obrero Español, in the government formation process, is that a leftwing coalition, Unidas Podemos, with forty-two seats, will most likely express support to Sanchez.


Leader of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, will emerge as a kingmaker, and he knows Sanchez needs his support, especially from regions, where Sanchez’s party has not done well. This scenario will also give him a chance to play his cards right, as he might pressure Sanchez, to put forward his agenda, including outmaneuvering him, for some regionalist demands.

Madrid, for a while, has seen itself, as the voice for a pro-EU, having a left-leaning agenda. During the 2008-09, Spain also felt the economic crises, and it saw the worst of austerity drives.  However, at the time of Mariano Rajoy, leading the country, Catalan aspirations for independence, had reached an all-time high, and his tenure also brought Spain new economic woes. Perhaps, these forlorn circumstances, led to the downfall of Partido Popular, amongst the common Spaniards.


Catalan independence has been irking nationalist-oriented, Spaniard politicians, because of the ripples, that now have spread abroad. Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona, is not a secessionist, but does favour a referendum for independence. Quite lately, she was blamed for city’s many ills, from high rents, rising street crime, and streetless vendors, who have snowballed, quite lately. Despite this, she got an endorsed open letter, signed by important world activists, like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, and the economist Thomas Piketty, urging electorates, to vote for her, for the mayoralty of Barcelona, one of the most important cities, in Europe.

In a Guardian article, Sam Jones and Stephen Burgen, wrote:  ‘For Catalan secessionists, Barcelona is both the weak link and the big prize. With about two-thirds of the population made up of either recent immigrants, or people of non-Catalan Spanish ancestry, support for independence is lukewarm.’ 


Years before the financial crises, the government of Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, gave a green signal to pro-EU policies. It was a reason that Spaniards occupied the top Brussels positions, that included portfolios, such as overseeing EU’s economic policy, and foreign policy. Sanchez, after coming to power, will also try to yield his influence, in the European Union.

Sanchez’s plans include advocating for a common budget for Eurozone members, an EU-wide unemployment fund, and climate measures, such as a bloc-wide green tax on imports of fossils-derived electricity. He also wants a European Investment Stabilisation Fund, more efforts to stabilise the EU’s banking union, including boosting European Banking Resolution Fund. Some government sources have even said that Madrid also wants an EU fiscal union, and a European deposit insurance scheme. There is also a chance, that all these reforms, might propel some opposition, from conservative politicians, sitting in Berlin.


After the win, Sanchez went on the comment that Spain, in the future, will no more play into the hands of ring wing politics. The emergence of Vox, a far-right party, in fact, had been against Catalan aspirations, from day one. Winning around twenty-four seats, they had an agenda, to ban pro-independence political parties, in Catalonia, and also attacked the Spanish feminist movement, describing the move as ‘politically correct.’ The party has vowed to construct an ‘unbreachable wall’, to keep all forms of illegal migrants, out of Spain’s North African territories, of Ceuta and Melilla.


As Spain also won a high ballot vote, in the recently concluded European election, their performance in the ballots, might also propel their ambitions to target top EU jobs, in Brussels. Spanish socialists won around twenty seats, in the European Parliament. At a press conference, Sanchez has even gone on to declare that he will the ‘chief negotiator’ for the ‘social democratic family’.


This time around, Madrid will most likely aim for EU’s top foreign policy job, and for a vice presidency, at the European Commission. Even Catalan separatist leaders won two seats, in the European Parliament, but the bigger question will remain, whether they could become EU lawmakers, in the near future.

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