I ask because tomorrow is election day here in Spain. Although resident I do not have a vote in these elections which were called by José Luis Zapatero at the same time that he announced that he would not be seeking re-election. Instead, the deputy prime minister, Alfredo Rubalcaba leads the socialists (PSOE) into the elections, whilst the conservative, Partido Popular (PP) is led by Mariano Rajoy, who took over from José María Aznar after PP’s defeat in 2004.
The opinion polls show a somewhat confusing picture. On a party basis, the lead over the socialists is so great that, if carried through to the polling booths, it would result in a victory for PP with an overall majority in the Cortes. However, Rubalcaba enjoys much greater popularity in the polls than his main rival, Mariano Rajoy. Will people vote for party or person?
And how will the global, financial markets react, whatever the outcome? Governments have fallen recently in Greece and in Italy, and this past week the markets have turned the spotlight onto Spain. Will a new government stave off the presure, or will Spain continue to be considered another likely candidate for default? Only time will tell.
Whatever happens tomorrow, though, it is unlikely to change very much in Andalucía, except for the worse. As the largest of the 17 autonomous communities into which Spain is divided, Andalucía sends the largest number of Deputies to sit in Congress (60 compared to Catalonia’s 47 and Madrid’s 36, for example.). You might expect that to ensure a fair deal from Madrid for the community; it does not. The Partido Andalucista, which at present has no seats in the Cortes, is fighting on a platform of addressing that problem, and it is a big problem.
Spain presently ranks as the 133rd best country in which to do business. Unemployment has tripled in the last three years and now stands at 22% of the workforce. 24% of Spaniards are living below the poverty level, and the Roman Catholic charity, Caritas is operating feeding centres and food banks all over the country. Youth unemployment stands at 46%. And Andalucía heads these statistics within Spain. This, the largest autonomous community which the largest number of seats in Congress has the highest rates of general and youth unemployment, poverty, mortgage foreclosures and company failures. I’ll return to this theme next time, and look at possible causes, but for now I await with great interest but few expectations, the outcome of tomorrow’s voting.