Here We Go Again

Back in December we had a general election here in Spain. It yielded an inconclusive result with no clear path to forming a new government. I suggested at the time that it looked most likely that there would have to be fresh elections. Well, that now comes about. Spaniards will return to the polls on Sunday 26th June, when to be honest everyone expects a similar result to that in December. Since the establishment of a democratic constitution back in the 1970s government has been by one or other of the two main parties, the socialists or the conservatives - just like the UK really. However during the course of the previous government, three new parties emerged each with a reasonable degree of support, though not enough to take power. Add to this a growing concern about corruption in the governing conservative party, Partido Popular, and there was a feeling in the run up to December’s elections that the two party hegemony was about to be destroyed. That didn’t happen; instead some serious compromise was needed if anyone were to form a government. Unfortunately the Spanish - and especially their politicians - are not good at compromise. Each party prefers its own entrenched position. Four months have passed in which each set of negotiations has broken down. Mariano Rajoy, leader of the Partido Popular (PP) declined the King’s invitation to try and form a government on the grounds that he would not be able to muster sufficient support. Next it was the turn of the leader of the socialist Partido Socialista Obrera de España (PSOE), which initially looked more promising. Of the new parties to emerge during the last government two were left of centre and one was right of centre, but only just. In addition there was an existing minority party, the communist Izquierda Unida (IU) or ‘united left’. However, one of the left of centre parties Union, Progreso y Democracy (UPyD) had lost ground in the election and was not in contention. That left Ciudadanos (Citizens’ Party) and Podemos (We Can) and IU. Podemos grew out of the street protests variously known as 15-M, or 15th May which was the date of a mass rally against austerity that was held in the centre of Madrid, and Los Indignados, or indignant ones, both of which were eclipsed on the international media stage by the American “Occupy” movement. Ciudadanos began life as an anti-separatist party in Catalonia and could be thought of as right of centre, but only just. The logical solution turned out not to be achievable, mainly because of the intransigence of Podemos. Its clear ambition is to replace IU on the far left, and so it refused point blank to contemplate entering any coalition that included IU. Podemos, for reasons which are not immediately obvious, is committed to allowing the people of Catalonia to have a binding referendum on the question of Catalan independence, something which is absolutely unacceptable to Ciudadanos, whose origins lie in opposition to an independent Catalonia. So Ciudadanos will have no part of a coalition which includes Podemos unless the latter ditches its support for a referendum. Without the participation of all three of these parties, the socialists cannot cobble together a parliamentary majority. So, off we go again to new elections. During all the wrangling nothing has changed in Spanish political views so we can confidently expect that the new elections will produce the same kind of outcome as the last.

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