In need of marriages and a bit of love in spanish politics

Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos
Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos

Following the elections in the Spanish Parliament that were held this past December 20th, a situation never seen before has risen in the Spanish state. Since the beginning of our democracy dating back to 1978, only two parties had ever competed to lead the government: the conservatives and the social democrats. However, this winter brought forth two new political parties, Podemos and Ciudadanos. Both have gained enough seats so as to declare our traditional bipartisanship dead, days before the turn of the year. These two, new parties can be characterized as being socialist and liberal respectively (following the traditional ideological concepts). Given the context, it might however, be more appropriate to define them as reform-oriented parties, both aiming for better democratization. Both of them share the will to fight against corruption in the public sphere, an element of much discussion in Spain since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008. Other than corruption, more transparency and greater accountability were two other largely vocalized themes during the electoral campaigns.

 

It appears now, that a coalition to form a government will not only be an indispensable task but also a very challenging one. The most striking fact to recognize is that Spain is the only country within the European Union that has never experienced having more than one political party within the same government. This is mostly due to a professedly proportional electoral system, which turns out to be more of a majoritarian one due to the few constituencies, which hold very few seats to distribute. Typically, the conservatives and the social democrats governed, whether with an absolute majority of the seats or with a very significant simple majority helped with specific agreements with the Catalan and Basque nationalist parties. The situation now is much more complex since the specific agreements with the Catalan nationalists are facing a controversial choice due to the Catalonia’s announced desire to secede from Spain. The main parties know that this would be unacceptable for the vast majority of the citizens. Besides, apart from the traditional lack of experience in negotiating the investiture of the Primer Minister and his/her cabinet, there has been, during the electoral campaign, an important public estrangement between all the parties. Often times this has led to suggest a no trade policy with the investiture of certain contenders for the presidency of the government.

 

Nevertheless, the Spanish electorate does not seem to be as radicalized in its political preferences so as to penalize the party they voted, even if it attempts to obtain specific agreements with other parties or if it governs in coalition. There are several options on the table: the liberals with the conservatives, the social-democrats with the socialists, or even a larger coalition between the conservatives and the social-democrats. In my personal opinion, as the situation currently stands, it will not be necessary to hold new elections, as some have suggested. Our country has reached a significant democratic maturity where its people and its political parties are ready to seek further consensual politics. This is especially important when considering external factors, such as pressure rising from the E.U. and the international financial markets conditions or internally, from the secessionist movement in Catalonia. Key reforms, such as the labor regulation, are necessary to tackle the immense unemployment rate or even constitutional changes specific to the electoral system, are required to get Spain leveled with excelling European democracies.

David BERTRAN ROMAN

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