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Elections in Spain: between left and right

Faced with PSOE’s refusal to establish coalition pacts to form a government, Spanish citizens will return to the ballots on 10 November to elect a president. It will be the fourth time in four years, but the electoral stage has been eclipsed by the protests in Catalunya and the exhumation of dictator Francisco Franco’s body.

 

Juanjo Andrés Cuervo

 

After seven years of a Spanish government run by the right-wing coalition Partido Popular (People’s Party), the PSOE (the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) achieved a victory in the elections held on 28 April.

This win for the party led by Pedro Sánchez was seen as a return to progressive politics. Nonetheless, Sánchez’s refusal to establish an alliance with left-wing party Unidas Podemos meant that the absolute majority needed to establish a coalition government was not achieved.

For this reason, 10 November will mark the fourth round of elections in just four years in the country.

Admittedly, Pedro Sánchez’s persistent refusal to make a pact with Pablo Iglesias, the progressive beacon of the Spanish left, made it clear that it would be impossible to establish an alliance with Unidas Podemos.

The leader of PSOE made it clear that he would prefer to make a pact with the centre-right party Ciudadanos, led by Albert Rivera.

This was despite the fact that PSOE supporters celebrated the win in April with chants of “not with Rivera!”. Not even then did Sánchez deny a possible pact with Ciudadanos.

Electoral polls

According to surveys carried out by various organisations, including the Centre of Sociological Research, the PSOE is forecast to win the elections on 10 November with 26.6% of the votes. PP is predicted to come second with 21.8%, and then Unidas with 12.7%, edging out Ciudadanos. The latter would suffer the biggest defeat out of the five most represented political parties, taking just 9% of the votes.

Anti-fascist tree. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski bit.ly/2RxVPdT

Among these are the ultra-right party Vox with 12.6%. On the other end of the spectrum is Más País, the party created recently by Iñigo Errejón, an old ally of Pablo Iglesias in Unidas Podemos.

Among recent elections, these have likely been the least focused on issues related to education, health and employment.

Despite the fact that the 10 November is just around the corner, the protests in Catalunya and the exhumation of Francisco Franco’s body have dominated the country’s attention since October.

Protests in Catalunya

After the Supreme Court sentenced various political leaders to prison for organising the Referendum in Catalunya, upheaval began in the region on 14 October.

While people protested against the excessive punishment imposed on these political leaders, the police showed aggressive behaviour towards the protestors themselves. Sadly, this came as no surprise after the violence seen on the part of police officers on 1 October 2017, when the Referendum for Catalan Independence was held.

The protests took place between 14 and 20 October, and a number of videos went viral showing police officers attacking protestors.

The incidents included police cars running people over, while other members of security forces shot rubber bullets at short distances and dealt out blows to anyone nearby.

Meanwhile, right-wing political parties took advantage of the situation to try and win votes.

Alberta Rivera seized the opportunity by recording a video of himself pleading for a united Spain, while Pablo Casado and Santaigo Abascal, leaders of PP and Vox respectively, continued their line of populist discourse.

The exhumation of Franco from the Valley of the Fallen

Another important event that could mark Spain’s electoral future occurred on 24 October, when the body of dictator Francisco Franco was finally exhumed.

Franco was buried in the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), a place where around 34,000 victims of the Spanish Civil War were laid to rest in communal graves.

The fact that the dictator was also buried there for over 40 years had caused a lot of upset in the democratic sector of Spanish society and attracted international criticism.

Pedro Sánchez managed to get the dictator’s body relocated, just as he promised in June 2018 when he gained power after successfully passing a vote of no confidence in the government run by Mariano Rajoy and Partido Popular.

The PSOE leader has taken advantage of the upcoming elections to strike another blow to the opposition and win over more votes.

For their part, the PP has expressed their disapproval over the exhumation of the body, arguing that the PSOE is trying to reopen old wounds.

Now the PSOE aims to turn the Valley of the Fallen into a homage to the victims of the Spanish Civil War in an effort to counteract the sanctuary for the Spanish far right that the place has become.

Since the memorial was opened in 1959, Franco sympathisers have been known to meet regularly and pay homage both to Francisco Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of fascist political party Falange Española.

This is just further proof that the events of 1975 did not signify a transition to democracy. Though the dictator himself may have died, efforts were made to cover for murderers that committed crimes for which they have never been tried.

For this reason, the roots of a fascist society continued to grow in the heart of Spain. Now is the time to finally take measures on behalf of all those who died defending their right to freedom.

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Email: lucy.daghorn@gmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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