Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Imploding Socialists: Spain's election

There's an election on Sunday. If it seems as if it's only yesterday since the last election, that's because it was: well, six months ago anyway. But elections come around so often, you can be forgiven for losing track: Spain appears to nowadays operate on the basis of regular election rather than actual government.

So, what has happened in the intervening months? Not a lot. There was of course the farcical failure to arrive at any accord between the parties that would have allowed someone to be permanent prime minister rather than an acting one. Other than that, however, little has changed. Podemos have acquired a new best friend in the form of the United Left and appear destined to take number two spot in the electors' affections. Otherwise, things are more or less as they were. Chaotic.

Will they be any different after Sunday? No. The chaos will remain but it may be diluted somewhat. That will be if PSOE and Pedro Sánchez decide to let the PP and Mariano Rajoy officially continue. The chances are that this would be as a minority government rather than as a coalition, but who knows for sure? Sánchez doesn't, and he may well be out of the equation anyway. PSOE barons are sharpening their knives, unimpressed by the failure to make any headway in the polls.

But Sánchez is a bit like an England football manager. It makes little or no difference who's in charge. Getting anywhere is bound to end in failure. This wasn't once the case with PSOE, but it has never recovered from having been the party that presided over the start of the economic crisis.

Going into the election, everything is so familiar. What was said before the December election still holds true. There are four main parties, two of whom have disrupted the two-party system and another two who too few people like or trust. The PP and PSOE behemoths have been reduced by the dual thrusts of crisis and corruption, to which can be added some all-round nastiness by the PP as well as the A-word: austerity.

But that, you might think, has shifted somewhat. Isn't Spain all the better economically now? Better even than it was six months ago? Maybe, but there are too many voters who are seeing nothing of the recovery and too many who have come to despise the PP for austerity and have thus been seduced by the promised land of Podemos or by the mini-me PP of Ciudadanos.

That isn't wholly accurate of course. The C's are a shiny, bright vehicle compared with the rusting heap that the PP is contriving to just about keep on the road. The C's are also all for the "citizens" - they couldn't be anything else, given that their name means that - and so against corruption. They have some bright young stars, such as their leader, Albert Rivera. Yet somehow they seem to have got stuck. Contrast them with Podemos, who keep managing to move forward: there are some clever bastards in the Podemos ranks, and they have even managed to disguise the disagreements that exist in those ranks.

Alas for Podemos, Pablo Iglesias will not emerge as prime minister. Or it would take a seismic event for him to become so. Perhaps the defenestration of Sánchez might be it. He surely won't survive this second election and another farcical failure to become premier, but would a successor look upon Podemos with any more positive light? Very doubtful. PSOE have been totally humiliated and continue to be. The ultimate humiliation would be to serve in a government under Iglesias. It won't happen.

Closer to home, i.e. Mallorca and the Balearics, there is further humiliation to come. Francina Armengol, head of an unstable government for all that she insists that it is the opposite, must know that the fates are conspiring against her. PSOE in the Balearics seem destined to come third, just as PSOE nationally will. Podemos will become the major force in the "pact". There will be a reappraisal and an even more vicious one if Sánchez allows Rajoy to stop acting and start being premier again.

So what will happen to Francina? Possibly nothing. It may well suit Podemos to carry on with how things are. They can happily continue to dictate policy: even more so, if the election goes the way it is expected to. Francina would therefore seek to assure the "citizens" that there is "normality" and "stability". Though she might not believe it, others in PSOE do. For all her brave talk, it is PSOE that Podemos have been attacking all along, wishing to destroy wishy-washy socialism with the real thing. Podemos can bide their time, believing that Sánchez support for the PP will lead PSOE to completely implode.

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