Tag Archives: andalusia

Nine European women who could join Hillary Clinton at the top


Part of the undeniable appeal of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign is her push to become the first woman to lead the United States, enhanced by the fact that she aims to succeed the first African-American president.USflag

But, if elected, Clinton will be far from the only powerful woman on the world stage.

If she wins the November 2016 presidential race, she’ll join a list of world leaders that includes German president Angela Merkel, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

What’s more, there’s never been a better moment for women leading their countries. Assuming that Clinton wins the presidency in 2016 and serves two terms, it’s not inconceivable that she’d lead the United States at a time of ‘peak’ female leadership. But nowhere is that more true than in Europe. In fact, it’s not inconceivable that each of the six largest member-states of the European Union could have women in charge during a potential Clinton administration.

Here’s who they are — and how they might rise to power. Continue reading Nine European women who could join Hillary Clinton at the top

Socialists thrive in Andalusian regional elections


After last Saturday’s election, it’s no exaggeration to say that Andalusia’s regional president Susana Díaz might be the most popular politician in Spain.Spain_Flag_Iconandalucia flag

Díaz, who heads the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party) in Andalusia, the largest region — or ‘autonomous community’ — in Spain, won her first term as regional president since taking power in 2013 upon the abrupt resignation of her predecessor, José Antonio Griñán. Both Griñán and Manuel Chaves, who governed the region between 1990 and 2009, are under investigation for their connection to a wide-ranging ‘ERE’ corruption scandal involving the diversion of funds designated to assist laid-off workers in Andalusia, where the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 34%, the worst in Spain, where joblessness also remains stubbornly high, despite its economy’s tepid 1.4% growth last year — the first year of GDP expansion since 2008.

Those two concerns, jobs and corruption, dominated the campaign in Andalusia, the sprawling southern region of Spain.

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RELATED: In Andalusia, Díaz takes office with staggeringly high unemployment, economic woes (September 2013)

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Though Andalusia has been a Socialist stronghold since the return of democracy in the late 1970s, disillusionment with widespread corruption and with Spain’s deteriorating economy gave the center-right Partido Popular (PP, People’s Party) of prime minister Mariano Rajoy its first Andalusian electoral victory in March 2012. Despite the Socialists’ losses, the party remained in power by forming a coalition with a smaller left-wing coalition of parties, Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left).

The Socialist-IU coalition continued under Díaz, who at age 40 is pregnant with her first child and who still marks a sharp contrast, generational and otherwise, with the region’s previous Socialist leaders. Díaz, a sharp-tongued populist who declined to contest the party’s national leadership, has also declined (so far) to challenge the PSOE’s leader Pedro Sánchez to become the prime ministerial nominee in November’s general elections.

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Her victory in Andalusia’s March 22 snap election, called in January after Díaz wearied of the IU’s demands as junior coalition partner, will give hope to Sánchez and the national PSOE leadership that it can thrive throughout the 2015 electoral gauntlet.

An additional 13 regions will hold elections on May 31, including Madrid, the Valencian Community and Castile and León, the third, fourth and sixth most populous regions in Spain, respectively. Rajoy’s PP and its allies are defending governments in 11 of the 13 regions, including each of Madrid, Valencia and Castile and León. The party’s 17-seat loss in Andalucia, therefore, is an alarming sign for the ruling party.  Continue reading Socialists thrive in Andalusian regional elections

In Andalusia, Díaz takes office with staggeringly high unemployment, economic woes


Andalusia, the most populous of Spain’s ‘autonomous communities,’ has one of the most distinctive cultures in Europe — it’s the home of flamenco musical tradition, the Moorish architecture of Córdoba and Granada, the Baroque splendor of Seville and the birthplace of sherry.andalucia flagSpain_Flag_Icon

For all of its cultural riches, however, Andalusia has recently distinguished itself as one of the most economically challenged regions in Europe.  Last year, it had the second-highest unemployment rate (34.6%) in the entire European Union, with a youth unemployment rate of over 60%.  When you think of the European periphery that’s been choked off from economic growth by the eurozone sovereign debt crisis and the European Central Bank’s monetary policy, you should think of Andalusia.

Enter Susana Díaz, who took over last week as Andalusia’s new president (and its first female president), following the resignation of José Antonio Griñán, who had served as the Andalusian president since April 2009 and led the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party) to a nearly historic defeat in what’s long been a heartland of the Spanish left, stemming from the stridently leftist response to the latifundio culture that dominated economic life in the region through the early 20th century.  The lack of political competition in the region has done Andalusian residents few favors, however, and Socialist bosses control the region’s government as surely as the caciques of the old aristocracy.

Díaz marks somewhat of a break from the immediate past (up to a point) — from Griñán, and also from his predecessor, Manuel Chaves, who served as the Andalusian president from 1990 until 2009.  That’s good news in light of ongoing investigations into corrupt practices of past governments because past Socialist officials, including potentially Chaves and Griñán, are implicated in the fraudulent diversion of funds from ERE, a publicly subsidized fund that pays severance to laid-off workers.

Griñán announced he wouldn’t run for reelection as leader of the Andalusian Socialists earlier this year in part to shield the Socialist government from being further soiled by the ‘EREgate’ investigations.  Díaz won the leadership easily in July as Griñán’s preferred candidate, despite the promise of a robust party primary, and Spain’s national Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba worked to hasten the transition to Díaz, given the ethics cloud hanging over Griñán and Chaves.  It’s become somewhat standard practice for Andalusian Socialist presidents to stand down between elections, however, allowing new leaders the benefits of incumbency in advance of the next election.  For Díaz, that won’t likely come until 2016.

Though it’s not yet clear whether Díaz marks a true rupture from the old Socialist bosses that have controlled the Andalusian government for three decades, she has a long and difficult road of governance ahead.

Somewhat promisingly, Díaz has already replaced three of the eight leading ministers in the Andalusian government, including the top economic officials from the Chaves-Griñán era and appointed her own economic team — headed by Andalusia’s new economics commissioner José Sánchez Maldonado, a former professor of public finances and a Socialist heavyweight who hopes to emphasize employment, growth and social justice.

But just ask Sicilian president Rosario Crocetta how much leverage he has had in repairing another struggling peripheral Mediterranean economy, even with all the anti-corruption, pro-growth, pro-employment sentiment he can muster.  Frankly, Díaz holds few of the political and economic levers that would allow her to radically change Andalusia’s destiny, which will be determined to a larger degree in Berlin, Brussels and Madrid than in Seville.  Last autumn, the region requested an additional €1 billion to meet its financial obligations, and the government has long been suspected of hiding the true extent of its debt obligations from federal officials.

Continue reading In Andalusia, Díaz takes office with staggeringly high unemployment, economic woes