Category Archives: Galicia

Pressure builds on Sánchez as third Spanish election looms

(EFE)
Felipe González, right, a respected former four-term prime minister, has called on Pedro Sánchez, the current PSOE leader, to allow a conservative minority government. (EFE)

Felipe González was just 41 years old when he became, in the view of many Spaniards, the most consequential prime minister to date in post-Franco Spain.galiciabasqueSpain_Flag_Icon

Across a span of 14 years in power, González, the leader of the center-left Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), won four consecutive elections, normalized the rule of law and the traditions of democratic participation in Spain, brought the country into what was then the European Economic Community, the forerunner of today’s European Union, and shepherded Spain into NATO as a firm member of the transatlantic military and security alliance.

Today, while Spaniards take for granted many of those accomplishments as pillars of the Spanish state, González is also now remembered for the levels of corruption that sank his final government and a botched attempt to combat armed Basque nationalists.

But he’s still the first among Spain’s elder statesmen, in many ways as influential as the former king, Juan Carlos I, who abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son Felipe VI. In truth, the two are more responsible than anyone for Spain’s vibrant democracy today.

Third election a Christmas miracle?

As his country enters its 10th month without a government, voters may worry that Spanish democracy has become a bit too vibrant in recent years, as a strong two-party political system has crumbled into a four-party state with myriad regionalist parties from all corners of Spain, its two-party system dissolved under the penumbra of depression-level GDP contraction and unemployment.

That’s why, after two elections, the first in December 2015 and the second in June 2016, no party can quite cobble together the necessary majority to form a government. If Spain’s party leaders cannot unlock a breakthrough by the end of October, the country will head to the polls for the third time in 13 months, possibly even on Christmas Day 2016.

González, who has doled out criticism for all of Spain’s political leaders, is one of the few PSOE figures publicly urging his party and its young leader, Pedro Sánchez, to concede its fight to deny another government under conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy. In his view, Spain would suffer greater damage from a third general election in 13 months — as polls show that yet another snap election would result in essentially the same deadlock as the last two. In a country where turnout of 75% or more isn’t uncommon, turnout dropped from 69.7% in December to just 65.7% in June, and it could fall even lower, to 63% or worse, with another snap vote. Generally speaking, Spanish observers believe that will boost the PP, at the expense of the PSOE and Podemos, the leftist, anti-austerity movement that formed in 2014 out of the indignados movement of Spain’s masses of unemployed workers.

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RELATED: PSOE’s incentives point to PP-Ciudadanos minority government in Spain

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Another election in Spain would come as both Germany and France face national elections in 2017 with rising eurosceptic sentiment. It would come weeks after a make-or-break referendum on constitutional reform that’s seen as a plebiscite on Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, and as the United Kingdom, under its new prime minister Theresa May, maneuvers to leave the European Union after its blockbuster June 2016 ‘Brexit’ vote. It could fall just days after the United States might elect businessman and reality television star Donald Trump as its next president.

So the last thing Spain’s leaders (and European and American leaders) want is another inconclusive vote and prolonged uncertainty that could threaten the slight economic growth that Spain’s generated in 2015 and 2016 and that has left the country without a government to implement a budget for the next year or provide leadership in ongoing post-Brexit debates over the European Union’s future.

Rajoy fails to win investiture vote

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy has continued to lead a caretaker government since last December. (Facebook)
Prime minister Mariano Rajoy has continued to lead a caretaker government since last December. (Facebook)

The latest despair comes after another failed attempt by Rajoy to retain power. Although his conservative Partido Popular (PP, the People’s Party) won the greatest number of seats in the most recent June election (indeed, a 14-seat increase from the December election), he has twice failed to win two confidence votes since the end of August, with a majority of the Chamber of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados), the lower house of the Spanish parliament, blocking Rajoy’s investiture. Continue reading Pressure builds on Sánchez as third Spanish election looms

Rajoy survives election season in Spain’s most separatist regions

It’s not exactly accurate to say that Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has ‘won’ in the aftermath of three regional elections in the past two months in Galicia, Euskadi (i.e., the Basque Country) and Catalunya.

But it’s fair to say that, compared to the worst-case result in each region, Rajoy’s government is likely relieved at the results of each of the three elections, especially last weekend’s Catalan elections, which threatened not only to undermine Rajoy’s federal authority, but to undermine the stability of Spain as a nation-state.

Rajoy (pictured above, right, with Catalan president Artur Mas) has had an incredibly difficult first year since taking office in December 2011 — he’s  continued Spanish austerity policies in the face of continued recession and amid the highest unemployment within the eurozone (over 25%).  With Spanish voters disillusioned about the economy and with Catalan voters, in particular, agitating for greater autonomy — if not full independence from Spain’s federal union — Rajoy and his center-right Partido Popular (the PP, or the People’s Party), together with the PP’s various local, regional iterations, were playing defense, at best, in each region.

In each election, however, there are reasons for Rajoy to take heart.

It’s obvious that the autumn’s regional elections could have been much worse: Rajoy’s party could have lost power in Galicia, the former radical leftist ETA sympathizers could have won control of the Basque government, and an outright majority win by Mas and the CiU in Catalunya would have likely caused an immediate political and, indeed, constitutional crisis — and, given the bond market’s jitters, likely a financial crisis as well.

Continue reading Rajoy survives election season in Spain’s most separatist regions

Spanish conservatives take Galicia; Basque nationalists win Euskadi

Sunday’s regional elections in Galicia and Euskadi (i.e., the Basque Country) have given just about everyone in Spanish politics something to be happy about.

In Galicia, the ruling center-right Partido Popular de Galicia (PPdeG, People’s Party of Galicia) of Galician president  Alberto Núñez Feijóo (pictured above, top right), the local branch of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP, People’s Party), extended its majority in the 75-member Parlamento de Galicia from 38 to 41 after winning 45.72% of the vote.

In Euskadi, the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV, EAJ, the Basque Nationalist Party or, in Basque, the Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea) emerged with the largest number of seats in the Eusko Legebiltzarra (Basque parliament), with 27 seats on 34.64% of the vote.  Like Galicia, Euskadi’s unicameral parliament has 75 members.

As such, the PNV fended off a strong challenge from a more radical leftist and more firmly pro-independence coalition of Basque nationalists — the contest was widely seen as a fight between the more centrist PNV and the coalition of the ezker abertzalea (‘patriotic left’) formed this year, the Euskal Herria Bildu (EHB).

 The PNV, however, is now likely to form a government and its leader, Íñigo Urkullu (pictured above, bottom), is very likely to become lehendakari (president) of Euskadi.  Urkullu is the former PNV leader in Biscay, a stronghold for the party, and he became party leader in 2008.  The likely return of the PNV to government will put it back in power after only its first stint in opposition in the past 30 years.

So what do Sunday’s regional elections means more widely for Spain?

The result will give some comfort to Rajoy (pictured above, top left), who hails from Galicia, a center-right heartland within Spain.  Rajoy once served in Galicia’s parliament, and Rajoy and his party will be delighted to see Feijóo’s local Galician allies extend their majority.  After extending the center-right majority in Galicia and winning a plurality, if not an absolute majority, of seats in the March 2012 regional elections in the center-left stronghold of Andalucía, Spain’s most populous region (despite remaining in the opposition), Rajoy can take respite that his party retains some support throughout the country, which is suffering its fourth year of consecutive economic malaise and unemployment that’s perhaps the highest in Europe at just over 25%.

But the result will also embolden nationalist movements throughout Spain, especially Catalunya, where the separatist movement has taken an increasingly popular turn in the past couple of months.  Catalan president Artur Mas called snap elections early last month, and Mas is engaged in a high-profile political fight over regionalism with Rajoy — Catalunya votes on November 25.  Urkullu, who called for calm following the election, has been vague about his plans for the region, and he has not said whether he intends to seek full independence for Euskadi or merely greater regional autonomy.  But he is seen as the more moderate of the two Basque nationalist party leaders in a region where the armed separatist group, the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), signed a ceasefire just one year ago.

The result will also provide some small amount of delight for the radical left, which can point to gains in both regions.

Continue reading Spanish conservatives take Galicia; Basque nationalists win Euskadi

Six ways in which Sunday’s Galician and Basque elections will affect the Rajoy government

Just over 10% of Spain’s population will vote in regional elections this weekend in two key regions, Galicia and Euskadi (the Basque Country), but the elections will play a role in shaping the national politics that affect the remaining 90% of Spain at what’s an especially precarious time for the government of center-right prime minister Mariano Rajoy (pictured above with Galician president Alberto Núñez Feijóo).

Although Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP, People’s Party) only recently came to power in November 2011, after the eight-year government of prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the center-left Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), Rajoy has faced an unenviably difficult climate.  Spain’s economy is contracting this year after two years of tepid growth under 1%, which followed a contraction in 2008-09.  Unemployment is now just over 25%, among the highest in the eurozone.

Despite the tough economic conditions, Zapatero’s government, and now Rajoy’s government, have been relentless in slashing the Spanish budget.  Although Spain ran a fairly tight fiscal policy throughout the 2000s, the drop in tax revenue has resulted in an exploding budget deficit, which Rajoy hopes to reduce to just 6.3% of GDP this year (and 4.5% next year and 3% in 2014), in order to prevent yields on Spanish debt from rising to dangerous levels.

In less than a year, Rajoy has passed at least four different budget cut packages, including a raise in the Spanish incom