The Spanish public seems destined to head to the ballot box once again, with a likely increased abstentionism adding a darker note to the current scenario.
Juan Diego García
The reasons why the leader (Sanchez) of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) has not achieved the support needed to form a government in Spain are, without doubt, numerous and diverse.
However, there is one which barely features in the media coverage, and is scarcely mentioned with the emphasis it deserves in the discussions and debates that are now literally flooding the media: the decisive role played by the opinion of big businesses, which are openly hostile to an agreement between the PSOE and the United Left (Izquierda Unida) and Podemos.
All the alarm bells began ringing for the major employers when the left demanded, amongst other things, that the Department for Work abolish the current labour laws, which are blatantly contrary to the interests of the country’s workers.
Of course, there have been other reasons, personal quarrels and even poor negotiating skills on both sides notwithstanding; but almost since the start of the process it has been clear that the socialists had no real interest in reaching an agreement with the left.
They were prepared to hand over some areas of “social issues” to Unidas-Podemos, “gender” policies and little else, so that the essential element —the prevailing neoliberal economic policy— would not be touched.
Rather, the PSOE hopes to increase its support at the ballot box and probably to find sufficient support to form a government amongst the liberals of Ciudadanos. Sanchez claimed that thinking of governing with the left “kept him up at night”.
For their part, the major employers declared that now the possible centre-left agreement is broken, the new scenario “allowed them to sleep easy”.
If you place any weight on surveys, the results of the next election will not be very different from the last; but there will be an increase in votes for the traditional PSOE and PP parties (centre and right) and a certain decrease for the new parties Ciudadanos (on the right) and Unidos-Podemos (on the left).
However, there is no lack of analysts who aren’t ruling out a different scenario in which the centre-right, led by the PP, will equally be in a position to govern, dashing Sánchez’s hopes; there would be more restrictive social and cultural policies (to satisfy the pro-Franco extreme right) and the current economic model would be strengthened (something that even Sánchez wouldn’t do).
But the outlook is not exactly reassuring. More and more voices are predicting a new economic crisis, at least as tough as the previous one in 2008. In these circumstances it would be much more complicated for any government.
No matter who is governing Spain in the coming weeks, they will have to face a very unpromising global economic situation.
And to this we will have to add the still uncertain impact of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
Spain’s modernisation to the democratic system has not involved essential changes to its economic model, of which tourism and construction are two fundamental drivers (tourism alone represents 10% of GDP and the workforce in employment) whilst the industrial sector, new technologies and scientific investigation are very weak. Few weapons then, to defend itself in a scenario of global crisis which always offloads the biggest impacts onto the weakest.
Nor is Spain exempt from other, now global, inconveniences that so decisively undermine the legitimacy of institutions: corruption, for example. Although the neoliberal model has not been applied here in the brutal way in which it is practised in countries on the periphery of the system (Latin American and the Caribbean, for example), it has been sufficiently hard and it reinforces big differences with other countries in the old continent that offer a sufficiently robust quality of life to their populations and have greater resources to face the impact of the crisis.
As pointed out by some critics of the so-called “transition process” from Franco’s dictatorship to modern democracy, in Spain the conservative forces have maintained key sectors of state institutions under their control, in harmonious coexistence with the modern sectors of big businesses: each has its role to play and everyone is happy.
It is not a matter of chance that the opinion polls reflect the people’s great discontent with the parties and politicians.
There is little confidence in justice and the credibility of traditional institutions which have played a key role in Spanish daily life is in free fall: the Catholic Church, for example, with its clearly reactionary character (it is one of the main bastions of opposition to the current Pope’s reform measures).
Nor is it surprising that in Spain the resurgence of fascism —common across the continent— allows the expansion of traditional pro-Francoism (the Vox party) which despite statements from leaders on the centre-right distancing themselves, is already governing in some regions of the country thanks to PP and Ciudadanos…and this pro-Francoism will surely be found in the possible right-wing government that may result from the next election.
The erosion of the social order is also reflected in the leaders. They can barely be compared to those who led during the end of Franco’s dictatorship and the transition to modern democracy.
The same is true for the parties. Some are directly linked to corruption (as is the case with the PP in particular), and almost all with an already irremediable abandonment of their traditional ideals, of social democracy in the case of the PSOE, and in the case of the PP with a second burial for the poor attempts to give the right some tone of Christian-socialism (as happened with the civilized right of the old continent; Germany or Italy, for example).
For their part, Spanish communists never managed to emerge from the profound crisis they experienced with the fall of the USSR; today, grouped with Izquierda Unida, they probably make up the most sensible group on the left, although their programme is more reformist than revolutionary.
The so-called new left (Podemos) is even more reformist; indeed, it is a true paradox that their programme is less ambitious (or “radical” if you prefer) than that of the reformist Felipe González when he came into office in 1982.
To all this we would need to add the deep divisions on the left; some, the traditional, between those who seek what is possible and those who propose to immediately ‘storm heaven’, and the new divisions that only try to give the system a friendlier face.
Many ecologists, for example, end up blaming the consumer and placing less or none of the blame on the system which is, ultimately, the main cause of the planet’s destruction.
(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay