The elections held yesterday in Spain were an absolute disaster for the centre-right Partido Popular which was voted to government in 2011 with an overall majority of 185 MPs over 365. The heavy defeat was foretold by all major pollsters who ruled out a possible last minute Cameron effect.
So how can a government which has presided over an economic recovery and a falling inflation lose so much power in such a small lapse of time ? For those looking at things from the outside it can seem amazing but for those of us living inside it is perfectly reasonable what has happened. Here are some of the reasons:
1. People voted for a strong Conservative government which promised major reforms such as reducing bureaucracy, cleaning corruption or an independent judiciary. Instead none of this has happened except with a much lately implemented Transparency Law.
2. In the past we used to hear the famous cry “It’s the economy stupid” ! But now it is more than the economy. It is people’s pockets which have not noticed any particular improvement in disposable income. To this add the fact that in 1 million households, no family member is working. And nearly 500,000 citizens have emigrated since the crisis started in 2009 mainly to Germany, the UK and the USA.
3. The current leader, Mariano Rajoy, compared and put in a context with the likes of Cameron or Angela Merkel is pretty wishy-washy in many questions and at best he is a lame duck. I don’t really know what the present People’s Party stands for because it tries to be everything to everybody.
So in its place, a strong and young Albert Rivera, aged 35, of the Catalan-based Ciudadanos ( Citizens ) has offered a renewal project partly based on Liberal values, partly on mild Social Democratic values which have illusioned the electorate taking a good share of the conservative vote in all regions and many major cities. Ciudadans, a member of the Liberal International, has just made a small mistake : trying to build up the party very quickly and admitting people who were formerly in other parties. This has had some bad consequences such as the kicking out of some candidates who were not the most ideal ones to represent the Liberal project.
On the Left, it has been the far Left ( Podemos ) and some mixed far -left parties the ones which have the upper hand in some parliaments such as Valencia or in Madrid capital. The paradox is that the Socialists are the ones who lost most votes but who would be in the best position to rule thanks to an all-Left alliance thus displacing the first preference vote which has been the People’s Party. This situation was repeated well before in Denmark’s last elections in 2011 where a left-wing coalition sustains the Danis Social Democrats.
This brings us to a thorny question: should the party with the largest number of votes but not necessarily most seats be allowed to vote ? I think the answer should be YES. But I fear the radical Left wants a sort of Popular Front in place of respecting the preference of the electorate. Should this kind of Popular Front be materialised, it could mean an economic and financial disaster for the economy because they want to end austerity and go back to the typical spend, spend and get indebted policy of the past. This could put off possible investors and our already frail discovery. In today’s global world champagne experiments are just crazy politics who benefit no one and hurt the middle classes and the poor most.