Spain: the two major parties must work together to restore confidence in politics

Posted on 28. November 2011

by Laura Virué Escalera

Laura VirueSpanish parliamentary elections were held while Europe watched closely at how the Spanish debt was surpassing the levels where other eurozone governments turned to their neighbours for a bailout. On November 20th, Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party won by a large margin; a victory that was predicted both within and outside Spain.

All the countries most affected by the crisis in Europe have changed their governments in recent months. Especially troubling have been the resignations of Papandreou and Berlusconi; nothing like the calmer electoral process in Spain last Sunday, even though  President Zapatero had to hold early elections to improve the stability of the country and the credibility that his government was losing. Perhaps, he knew that if he had not taken this decision, someone from Brussels would have suggested it; perhaps, in fact, someone already suggested…

But the conclusion of those results is not only the triumph of the Popular Party and the collapse of the Socialist Party (PSOE). Small parties have gained more public support; nationalist parties are well represented in Parliament and, above all, the entry of the Basque nationalist left (Amaiur) are issues that are going to determine the politics of the next four years.

As the analyst Joaquín Prieto points out in an article published in El País, the Popular Party got 10.8 million of votes, but this represents 5% more votes than in 2008, not enough to justify the idea of irrepressible support to the right. This cannot be considered an electoral tsunami. Far more significant is that almost four in ten voters of the PSOE have been deleted from this option. All this in a context of growth of abstainers and those who vote blank or null.

It is significant how in the campaign, neither Rajoy nor Rubalcaba made great mention of his plans regarding their position in the European Union, although they know that the solutions to the crisis are beyond Spanish borders. The creation of jobs or restoration of credit to businesses depends, among other things, on the type of measures adopted by the European Central Bank, on the agreements with Germany and others to stimulate demand, if the European budget is oriented to enlarge investment, or whether we tax on financial transactions and carbon emissions. But, of course, to win the vote, they have to make the citizens believe that the solution is in their hands. How is Mariano Rajoy going to collaborate to build a Europe that is able to give effective and lasting solutions to the crisis? Referring to the EU, he said, just after knowing the election result, that “now, Spain has to stop being part of the problem to become part of the solution”.

It is clear that the new government’s goal is to recover the credibility and the confidence, and above all, alleviate the tremendous levels of unemployment. Economic recovery is essential for Spain, but also, people seem to ask other major changes, particularly after the huge demonstrations of Indignados in Sol and other squares. People call for more transparency, for the politicians to be closed to the reality, for the end of political corruption, and for a more effective democracy. People demand the two major parties in Spain and also the other voices to work together to restore the people’s faith in democracy, and not only to reassure the financial markets in Spain’s ability to cope with their debt.